Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett was crowded on Saturday, but its parking lot had plenty of spaces to spare. It was the first day East Hampton Town began enforcing new parking restrictions to curb public drunkenness and safety hazards that come with the beach’s new-found popularity among young adults.
A parking attendant was placed at the front of the lot and checked each car for a resident beach sticker. Many people were turned away, and those taxiing groups of young adults dropped them off just outside the lot.
As part of a pilot program, the new law restricts commercial vehicles weighing more than 4 tons, longer than 30 feet or carrying more than eight passengers from parking on Indian Wells Highway, 175 feet south of Bluff Road to the beach. Parking is also prohibited on both sides of Southview and Further Court, two roads near Indian Wells Highway, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The new restrictions are in effect from May 15 to October 1 on prime days—weekends, holidays and other days as determined by the East Hampton Town Police Department.
For the most part, people seemed to make due on Saturday. Groups of young adults still turned out en masse, carrying their beach chairs, coolers and twelve-packs from the road and up through the parking lot.
Several games of Frisbee and catch were underway on the beach as others sat with beer in hand or sprawled out for a tan. Lifeguards toting a stand to the east end of the beach seemingly rang in the season. “Here comes summer!” one of them yelled twice.
Ryan Duthe, of Syracuse, and his friends set up their beach chairs inside the crowd of 20-somethings. He said his friend dropped them all off at the entrance of the parking lot, drove back to where they were staying and then rode his bike back to the beach to join them.
“I understand why,” he said about the new restrictions. “Locals should have the privilege of using their beach.”
He said trekking through the parking lot with all their things was just “a little hassle” but worth it.
But not everyone was pleased. A girl from a group of six said “it sucks,” when asked about having to walk everything up to the beach after getting dropped off.
Michael Cahill, an East Hampton local, said the restriction and enforcement was a good idea.
“The parking lot is not as crowded—the beach is not as crowded,” he said. “There’s a lot more space, especially for the junior lifeguards who practice here.”
Mr. Cahill was sitting with two friends near the center of the beach, where more families were set up.
The parking attendant, Chi Tri Nguyen, said he began checking cars at 9 a.m., and by 1 p.m. about 60 drivers had made U-turns because they didn’t have a resident beach sticker or had too many people inside. He said, however, there were a few rogue drivers who didn’t listen or drove right past him.
“Some people aren’t listening and I hear angry comments,” he said, not wanting to repeat them.
He said the traffic control officers will ticket the drivers who disobey, but according to East Hampton Town Police Captain Michael Sarlo, most people were given warnings on Saturday since the law had just been enacted. Most of the tickets issued, approximately six, were for littering, public urination and public drunkenness, he said.
“It’s going to take some time to create a little more awareness to who is and who isn’t allowed into the parking lot,” he said. “As the next week or two goes by, there will be an increase in our presence and we’ll work hand in hand with Marine Patrol and the Parks Department. We’re going to be more strict and follow through so we have a safer environment.”
He said word hadn’t really gotten out by Saturday about the pilot program, so it didn’t deter much of the crowd.
“It’s the same basic thing going on as the middle of last summer,” he said. “But, I feel ahead of curve as far as our presence and enforcement. If we continue that we can start to get them to alter their behavior.”