Last Monday, I got a call from a surfcaster alerting me to the fact that one of the old sand roads, a Trustee road that accesses the beach, now has a sign at its entrance saying NO TRESPASSING. He asked me to look into it. The Trustees, in this case, the East Hampton Trustees, have protected rights to the beach on these roads, for use for the local citizenry, for centuries.
The road in question is near Main Beach, East Hampton. It starts as a paved driveway just off Ocean Road adjacent to the parking lot there. It skirts behind the Sea Spray Cottages and continues on through the dunes for about 300 yards to drop down to the beach. The road is mostly used by fishermen with four-wheel drive vehicles. They have Trustee permits to do so. Three separate groups, both public and private, have ownership claims to parts of this short dirt and sand road.
The sign reads PROPERTY OF THE MAIDSTONE CLUB NO TRESPASSING. The odd thing—maybe the outrageous thing—is that this sign, when I saw it on Monday, was located at the entrance to this road—on the first part of it, which is owned by East Hampton Village. You have to pass through two jurisdictions, first the Village and then the Trustees themselves, which have ownership of part of the road, before you get to the part of it owned by the Maidstone Club.
As a result of the location of this sign, local fishermen might not only be denied access to the beach, but be denied access to go fly fishing or clamming in Hook Pond. This road runs hard by the shore of Hook Pond on its way to the beach. And the road, the shoreline and the pond at that point are all on Village property. That’s before it gets to the Trustee-owned part of the road before the golf club part.
As a result of this, I put calls in to the Maidstone Club manager Ken Koch and to the East Hampton Village Manager Becky Molinaro. That was Friday and neither of them returned my calls. However, when I went back to the sand road yesterday, I found the Maidstone sign gone. Someone had taken it down. Angry fishermen? The Village? The golf club? Driving farther down that road to the beach access, through the jurisdiction of the Village and then the jurisdiction of the Trustees, I found a similar sign now placed at the entrance to the golf club part of the road.
I might note here that the sign is very classy. It is in the beautiful dark blue and gold colors of the golf course.
At this point, I do not know the motives of the golf club if they placed that first sign. I can think of three. One could be that they really do want to go up against the Trustees and try to shut down the fishermen’s access to the beach. Another is that there have been times recently when people with two-wheel drive cars and no Trustee permit have ventured out to where the road widens a bit before dropping to the beach to have picnics or just sunbathe there. Those people have no rights to that road. And they will likely get stuck in the sand when they do that. Third is that the club might have an application at Village Hall for a variance they need for a golf cart bridge over a public road they hope to build, and this variance is being given a hard time by the authorities—many of whom are local fishermen. Far fetched? Well, it’s possible.
Finally, as a good journalist, I should note that I have a four-wheel-drive car and a permit to use the road and have done so occasionally. I am also a golfer, have friends at this club and have played there as a guest numerous times.
I hope this gets cleared up soon.