Henry David Thoreau famously said, “That government is best, which governs least.” As we Americans lose many liberties due to COVID-19, we must balance our safety with our freedom. When we can increase safety and freedom, why not do it?
Safety measures have been taken at beaches like Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays. On weekends, day passes are not sold to lessen the number of people so disease doesn’t spread. We can do more.
Currently, residents congregate in front of the swimming area between two red flags in front of the lifeguard stands. On a summer day, it’s unnecessarily crowded by the shoreline. Some beach-goers are less than the requisite 6 feet apart.
The problem is easily solved: The swimming area should be shifted east. The farthest western lifeguard stand simply needs to be moved equidistant from the farthest eastern lifeguard stand. This would cause swimmers to locate in front of the lifeguard stands and surfers to locate in front of the freed-up surfing area, thus doubling the distance between beach-goers.
As a 30-year surfer, I know that less than 2 percent of the coast breaks properly for surfing. Swimmers can enjoy the other 98 percent. Surfing must take place at the peak of a rare and specially shaped wave.
There are about three peaks at Ponquogue; two of them are in the middle of the poorly designated swimming area. The placement creates an unnecessary user conflict, which mixes surfers and swimmers. This could cause an accident — and liability for taxpayers.
Because the swimming area is foolishly set up in the surfing area, the lifeguards continuously blow their whistles to separate the user groups. The swimming area is also usually placed next to a well-known rip current to the immediate west of the sandbar.
Many residents surf. During the hardship of COVID-19, they come down to the beach to escape the loss of freedom in their daily lives and experience the simple joys of swimming and surfing.
I’ve asked lifeguards to solve the problem by simply moving the far westerly lifeguard stand. The only faulty explanation for the poorly designated swimming area and lifeguard stand placement is that the town does not own the title to the beach that far east.
Good news! Under the Dongan Patent, the Trustees hold an easement of use on behalf of the public from the mean high tide mark to the crest of the dune, whether the town owns the underlying fee title or not. Thus, the town can legally put the far western stand to the far east. This would easily solve all safety issues.
Why not minimize the dangers by this simple change? Why not bring liberty, justice and safety for all?
Attorney at Law
Ms. Zenk is a former Southampton Town councilwoman — Ed.
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