A 37-acre parcel on Napeague, named South Flora, is in the pipeline to become a nature preserve, hinging on East Hampton Town Board approval—though how it will be preserved remains in question.
The town’s Nature Preserve Committee, which is recommending the designation, is split on whether to create a public bathing beach on the parcel which has 1,700 feet of ocean frontage, according to Nature Preserve Committee Chairman Zachary Cohen. Some residents and business owners surrounding the acreage say they are against that idea, especially if it involves putting in a parking lot.
“There’s never been any controversy of environmental significance,” Mr. Cohen said at Tuesday’s Town Board work session. “It’s very special, very rare, and one of the largest and last remaining environments like that that the town owns.”
Piping plovers, foxes and deer are said to inhabit the land there, and several species of native plants thrive, from beach grass to heather and pink lady’s slipper orchids.
The land was purchased in 2001 and preserved as open space, although that allows for a public beach. In 2005, the town borrowed $275,000 to pay for construction of a beach and parking lot, but never followed through.
While it is up to the Town Board to work out the details in a management plan—something Mr. Cohen recommended—there are a few neighbors who are adamant about limiting activity on the property, like Andrea Anthony, the owner of the Lobster Roll, which sits north of the property. “I’ve seen firsthand, behind the Lobster Roll, countless people from Ocean Colony [Beach and Tennis Club] on the dunes all the time without there being a public beach back there,” she said. “It really concerns me. The whole area is extremely environmentally fragile—I don’t think there should be parking whatsoever.”
But according to Mr. Cohen, part of the property is disturbed with invasive black pines and a walking trail that has been cut into the sand from pedestrian use. He said that would be the best place to put a parking lot, once the town removes an old oil tank there.
Councilmen Peter Van Scoyoc and Fred Overton, as well as Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, said they did not support the idea of adding a public beach or a parking lot at the site, but did support maintaining the driving and walking beach access trails that already exist there.
Mr. Cantwell said the Town Board will consider a resolution at the next Town Board meeting to designate the property as a nature preserve. The details of what the town wants there will be worked out in the planned management plan, he said.