At the request of local fishermen, Westhampton Beach Village trustees are permitting both village and Southampton Town taxpayers with the proper permits to drive onto the beach with four-wheel-drive vehicles via an access road located just east of Lashley Beach on Dune Road.
Though this is the first time, at least in recent years, that drivers have been able to access the beach in the village, the trustees explained that they are only giving the new policy a trial run until December 15, the end of bass season.
“If it turns into a nuisance then we’ll rethink it,” Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said on Monday.
The road has traditionally been used solely for emergency access, though earlier this fall officials from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested that it be opened for their use as part of the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, a project dedicated to preventing storm damage and controlling erosion.
Mr. Teller said local fishermen made the same request about five or six years ago, though the village opted at that time to limit the road to emergency use only.
The Southampton Town Trustees permit driving on town beaches between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. from the Friday preceding Memorial Day until September 15, and around the clock after that date. Drivers cannot travel above 10 mph and are prohibited from driving on the dunes or beachgrass areas, as well as in any areas roped off to protect piping plover nests.
Town Trustee Bill Pell said last week that he supports the new village policy. “I think it’s good anytime there is more access for anyone on the beach,” he said.
Ken Densieski, the president of the Hampton Surf Fishing Club, which has about 200 members, made his case for allowing town taxpayers to drive onto the beach at the Village Board work session on Thursday night, October 17. He explained that it is possible to drive onto the beach at the town-run Pikes Beach in West Hampton Dunes Village, but the jetties prevent vehicles from traveling east along the beach and onto Westhampton Beach Village beaches. The next access point is at the south end of Beach Lane in Quogue and at the Quogue Village beach.
Mr. Densieski, a Riverside resident, explained that local fishermen and families want the road open so they can access the beach for recreation, and he has never experienced any problems, such as partying. He added that the fishermen, including himself, often pick up trash on the beach and alert police of any suspicious events on Dune Road.
“We’re the first one to tell you when we see a window broken in the back of a house,” he said.
An avid fisherman, Mr. Densieski also noted that it is too risky to leave his fishing rods and gear, which cost thousand of dollars, in his truck and parked on Dune Road while he fishes.
Town taxpayers are required to spend $20 on an annual permit from the Town Trustees to drive on any of the beaches within the municipality, including those that fall within the incorporated villages. The Town Trustees also require that all vehicles on the beach be equipped with a jack, a jack board, a cable, a chain or rope, an air pressure gauge, a tire inflation device and a shovel.
Bill Merritt, whose family has lived in the area for generations, said permitting vehicles to access the beach at Lashley will provide an opportunity for older residents, specifically those with difficulty walking, so they can enjoy the beach. “That’s a wonderful reason to support it,” he said during last week’s meeting.