Residents neighboring Dolphin Drive in Napeague will soon find out if “no parking” signs will be put back on their street, which they say will preserve the quiet and safe neighborhood.
The East Hampton Town Board is expected to vote on Thursday to reinstall the “no parking” signs. However, a 38-acre parcel adjacent to the homes was designated as a nature preserve in October 2014, and some, including the Town Trustees, want to ensure public access to the area.
The East Hampton Town Nature Preserve Committee, the Trustees and other advocacy groups support providing access to the beach and the South Flora Nature Preserve by allowing limited, resident-only parking on the quiet street.
“I’m optimistic that the immediate problem will be addressed,” Jonathan Wallace, a member of the East End Dunes Resident Association, said of Thursday’s pending vote. “We will then go on to the next battle, which is the whole question of putting a parking lot on the dune.”
Since 1974, Dolphin Drive has had “no parking” signs, but last August the town, without notifying the neighbors, replaced the signs to reflect the current code allowing resident-only parking. When residents raised concerns over the change, town officials stated that the town code was altered in the early 1990s to allow town resident parking on the street—but for some reason the “no parking” signs had remained. But town officials said they have been unable to find the resolution that legalized parking at the site.
Due to the confusion and the subsequent outcry, the Town Board agreed in November to take down the new signs until they could sort out the issue and review the Nature Preserve Committee’s recommendations on parking for the South Flora nature preserve’s management plan, which is still in draft form.
According to Zachary Cohen, chairman of the Nature Preserve Committee, the management plan, which was adopted by the committee in April, calls for parking to the east of Dolphin Drive, where there are no houses, allowing access to the beginning of the South Flora preserve.
No new parking or trails are recommended for the preserve and the two existing vehicular and pedestrian access points would remain.
Mr. Cohen states in his letter to the Town Board about the management plan, that several similar oceanfront nature preserves with the same ecological significance of South Flora have parking for public access either on the preserve itself or alongside it.
East Hampton Town Trustee Debbie Klughers has spoken in support of allowing parking on Dolphin Drive, saying that if the town were to prohibit parking there, it would have a negative precedent and would start a slippery slope of small groups of people prohibiting large groups of people access to a public beach.
Mr. Wallace, who filed a lawsuit in December to get East Hampton Town to restore the “no parking” signs, said that the residents’ stance has never been anti-access, but has been in support of keeping Dolphin Drive a safe street for those who walk along it and making sure that it remains safe for emergency vehicles. Mr. Wallace’s lawsuit is still pending.
“It may take a little bit of time,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said about figuring out what to do in the long term. “In the meantime, the board has to figure out what to do on Dolphin Drive in the summer.”