Quiescent Atlantic beachfront in Southampton Town is undergoing a subtle landscape change.
The town has begun to install a system of location markers along the beachfront in order to help authorities respond more quickly to emergencies, but the process may have some hecklers as nearly a dozen have already been removed.
“The first week in October of this year, we [the town] started flagging the locations that the markers were to be installed with a GPS. This week we will be following up with numbers,” said Michael Ross Baldwin, the town’s geographic information systems manager. “A couple were pulled up and left lying on the beach, and a few others were taken,” he added.
The program calls for a total of 287 to be set up between the Moriches Inlet and the East Hampton–Southampton Town line in Sagaponack, where the markers will be coordinated to ascend in numerical order eastward, beginning with 001 at the inlet. The system of the markers will cost the town about $12,000, which includes the costs of surveying, installation and materials.
The idea behind the new system is to improve response time by local emergency services like police, fire and ambulance corps. “Every minute counts in an emergency,” is the mantra Graboski preached to officials.
Six different colors will be used for the 12 different villages or hamlets along the coastline , with the Shinnecock Inlet serving as a natural divider.
Once each marker is individually numbered and registered with an exact GPS location, the town will supply all emergency personnel with coordinates to each beach marker.
“In an emergency, you would relay the color and number of the closest beach marker,” explains Baldwin.
This marker program has been in the works since the summer of 2010, when former Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski proposed installing a similar coordinated marker system in a pilot program to aid lost beachgoers, most notably tourists, in distress.
“Councilwoman Graboski had everything in place before she left, except for the DEC permit,” said Baldwin.
Graboski’s pilot began its six-month-long experiment at Mecox Beach in Bridgehampton and in West Hampton Dunes last year, where local political figures deemed it useful. By August of last summer, Westhampton Beach began its marker’s pilot.
“I was surprised to see that the markers weren’t only being used for emergency purposes but were being used as meeting places for beachgoers,” said Baldwin, drawing from their effectiveness in the pilot program. “Might also be a handy landmark for parents.”
The town finally received DEC approval after Graboski had left office. They waited until this fall to begin due to the piping plover nesting season.
An ambitious Graboski sent letters to the mayors and trustees representing the villages of Southampton, Quogue, Westhampton Beach, Sagaponack and West Hampton Dunes, seeking their authorization to install the markers. In turn, the town has agreed to pick up the entire estimated cost of about $12,000.
The town has weighed the pros and cons surrounding the initiative and believes these markers to be potential lifesavers. Baldwin, considering the disapproval of these markers by several residents, asserts that safety and the well-being of others outweighs their generic appearance.
“We ask that all beachgoers please respect the beach markers,” said Baldwin. “They may just save your life someday.”