We’re halfway through one of the hottest summers on record, and while many people have been cooling off by enjoying local beaches, some have been enjoying them a little bit too much, opting to stay the night illegally.
In the weeks since Fourth of July, numerous complaints have come into both the Southold Town Police Department and the Southold Town Board regarding visitors from western Long Island setting up campsites and staying at various North Fork beaches for the weekend, particularly at Bailie Beach in Mattituck and 67 Steps in Greenport.
According to witnesses, the campers have set up tents, built bonfires and cooked on the beach. Neither Bailie Beach nor 67 Steps have restroom facilities and, as a result, the campers have used the beach as a bathroom, which has raised serious sanitation concerns. At the end of the weekend, when the campers go home, they've often left behind garbage from their stay.
Mattituck Park District Commissioner and Bailie Beach resident Doris McGreevy said she hopes that an end to the illegal campsites will come soon.
“My husband spoke to the campers and asked them if they would move and take their trash with them. They moved, but left the garbage in a big bag. The crows got to it,” McGreevy said. “Also, many of the neighbors live alone and have expressed safety concerns. They’re chasing the neighboring residents out.”
Bailie Beach is a part of the Mattituck Park District and is private property of the residents who live within the park district. Camping is prohibited at all park district beaches, as well as on all Southold Town beaches.
According to Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley, complaints about illegal campsites have been common along the Long Island Sound beaches between Duck Point in Cutchogue and Breakwater in Mattituck.
“This happens on the Sound in places with a lot of beach front," Chief Flatley said. “The biggest part of the problem is that they’re trespassing on private property, they’re leaving garbage behind, and they’re leaving waste behind.”
To combat the problem the Southold Town Police Department has increased weekend patrols. Two all-terrain vehicles as well as the Bay Constable have been doing 6 a.m. sweeps of the beach for the past several weekends. Last weekend seven or eight campsites were broken up, and nearly a dozen summonses were written to campers for catching undersized fish.
The Southold Town Board has also been instrumental in putting an end to the illegal camping problem.
“Safety is a huge concern. People shouldn’t have to worry about their safety. These are legitimate complaints,” Town Councilman Chris Talbot said.