East Hampton Town Board Will Hold Hearing On Limited Parking At Indian Wells Beach

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Steps by East Hampton Town to limit access to the parking lot at Indian Wells Beach to control a growing party scene there will be the subject of a public hearing before the Town Board on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Already a popular family destination, the beach and its parking lot have become much more congested in recent years because of an influx of young adults who often come in vans, buses and taxicabs.

Parking at Indian Wells is limited to town residents, but that hasn’t stopped nonresidents from showing up in droves. Residents say the beach has become party central, where drunken behavior has become the norm on the weekends.

The situation, said Councilwoman Silvia Overby, is a “real accident waiting to happen.”

Beachgoers who want to get to the restroom or an ice cream vendor, for instance, must dodge a slew of vehicles that drive through the lot or sit idling at the road end. Overflowing trash cans can typically be found where the cement meets the sand.

Town Board members say the beach’s popularity has grown because visitors spread the word about their experiences via social media and the internet.

In March, Ms. Overby organized a committee, which includes staff members of the highway, parks, engineering, police departments and other Town Board members, to address the growing number of visitors and their sometimes rowdy behavior.

Some residents and parents have also voiced their concerns to the board about providing a better environment for the families that call Indian Wells their beach.

Amagansett resident Dana Kalbacher said she is part of a group of moms who want a cleaner, safer beach for their kids.

“Our beach is becoming an ugly eyesore,” she said on Monday. “We don’t want to see that. We want better signage and litter control.”

Ms. Kalbacher said she and her friends grew up on the beach and just want to see it respected and remain a safe place to be.

“I hope we can do something sensitively and kindly, but we want to put our foot down and don’t want to see this recklessness,” she said. “In our hearts we know something tragic could happen.”

Ms. Overby said last year it was a bit of a “scramble” to deal with the crowds. The town ended up putting full-time enforcement at the beach toward the end of the summer season.

“This year we’re a little more prepared, and part of that preparation is making sure that it’s not a taxi stand, and that they can’t sit and wait and keep their car idling forever,” she said. “We’ll have more marine patrol on the beach making sure behavior is consistent with the code.”

The proposed law is part of a pilot program that would keep out commercial vehicles more than 30 feet long and vehicles that have more than eight passengers, which “are increasingly causing congestion due to their inability to safely negotiate the narrow parking area in conjunction with pedestrians, hindering the safe accessibility to the Indian Wells parking area,” according to the proposition.

The restricted access would be between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 15 to October 1 on prime days, meaning weekends and holidays. A checkpoint booth has already been added at the entrance of the parking lot.

Other proposals have been suggested by members of the community, including a ban on alcohol to address rowdy behavior that comes along with the crowds. Alcohol is currently allowed on town beaches, but not on village beaches.

Ms. Kalbacher said banning alcohol probably isn’t the way to go.

“We don’t want to live in the land of ‘no,’ we just want more respect and courtesy for our town,” she said.

Ms. Overby said a ban wouldn’t solve the primary objective of keeping the parking lot safe and would be unfair to responsible people.

“We discussed banning alcohol, but it seemed that would be punishing everybody for the behavior of a few,” she said. “It’s important to understand that we’re not trying to dampen beachgoers’ time. We’re just telling them there are limits, that we have respect for our natural resource and that we want it to be here for them and for generations that follow.”

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