Uh, not so fast.
That was the reaction of concerned residents and least one pol last week as East Hampton Town Board discussed changes to Ditch Plains’ parking lots, including the revegetation and paving of “Dirt Lot” at Deforest Road for safety reasons.
Tom Muse, who represented the Eastern Long Island Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation at the March 20 work session, told the board it should study the current flow of traffic inside the parking lot and possibly incorporate it into any future reconfiguration plans. He said there is a “real cost to the rural character” of the plan to pave Dirt Lot and it’s something that’s hard to place a number on.
“There is nearly an acre of asphalt being proposed in Montauk,” he said. “I think it’s a visceral reaction. Anyone who loves Montauk’s rural-ness is going to have a reaction like that.”
Randy Rosenthal, a longtime surfer of Ditch Plains, said his initial reaction to the plans is that if something is not broken, don’t fix it.
“I just think that with all the things the town has to address, [Ditch Plains] just isn’t broken,” he said.
Councilman Jeff Bragman said he believes the improvements were rushed and he thinks the project needs to slow down.
“The dirt parking at Ditch Plains is iconic. It looks the way it looked in the 1950s,” he said.
Bragman said he is not “interested” in paving Dirt Lot at all and noted it was clear from the meeting that the community had a lot of concerns about the environmental impact of the project. He said the town is not exempt from the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act and questioned whether all the facts about the project were available.
“I think we should start over and evaluate and do as little as possible there. This was a rush,” he said.
The commentary didn’t stop at the meeting, though.
The Surfrider Foundation sent out an email alert on March 20 urging members to attend the work session meeting, stating the paving of Dirt Lot would cause a greater water quality issue at the beach.
The organization backtracked a bit after the work session on Friday, referring to the previous email as “alarming” and saying it failed to include some of the “positives from Tuesday’s meeting,” in a subsequent email.
The email noted the organization’s representatives were concerned about the removal of vegetation and the use of permeable asphalt.
“The town board graciously listened to our concerns and indicated that additional options and planning would be explored prior to implementation. Surfrider is well aware of the town’s concerns regarding emergency vehicle access and hopes that a plan can be developed which meets everyone’s needs as well as the environment. Further discussion is anticipated and we look forward to continuing to be a part of the planning process,” the email stated.
The Ditch Plains Association also sent out an alert on March 19, urging members to attend the work session. The organization’s Facebook post on March 20 suggested the town not remove any vegetation from the lot and remove paving from the table because it will exacerbate runoff into the ocean, opting instead for regrading and the placement of “proper aggregate.”
The post supported measures improving circulation in the lot to ensure better access for emergency vehicles. It suggested the installation of painted landscape timers or railroad ties along the circumference of the lot to delineate individual parking spaces. Permeable parking pavers were suggested for the middle of the lot, adequate signage directing the flow of traffic, and enforcement.
When contacted for comment, Lou Cortese, the organization’s VP, stated in an email that the group considers the issue “vitally important in that it is dealt with more careful consideration of the environmental impact on the [Ditch Plains] area. “Our organization is in the process of assessing it with a measured approach so that we can offer the town an informed recommendation,” he stated.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the changes derive from public safety concerns about emergency vehicles getting in and out of the parking lots without people blocking their access.
He said the changes near the comfort station seemed to be accepted by the community, but the town is taking into consideration other concerns that were raised about drainage and the paving of Dirt Lot. The town is currently looking at alternatives and there are different remedies that could take place, he said.
“I have questions whether we can reach a consensus for this summer,” he said.
The changes proposed at Dirt Lot include emergency vehicle parking zones, which could prohibit anyone from parking in that particular area, and varying levels of parking from 58 to 78 spaces.
Other proposed changes at the beach include restricting the main parking to residents only, re-striping for parking spaces, and installing a booth for an attendant to check parking permits. The other two parking lots, at Otis and Deforest roads, would be designated for non-resident permitted parking — with Otis Road being expanded with an additional 18 parking spaces.