Turns out a Flanders beach frequented by sunbathers and dog walkers that has divided a community over whether it is public or private is not a permitted beach at all, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.
Dubbed Bay View Pines Beach, the spit of land at the end of Long Neck Boulevard has long been considered by residents to be private because the homeowners’ association of the same name once owned the access rights.
Two properties that were once a part of the beach have been purchased for public purposes — one a Suffolk County tax lien sale, and the other using funds from New York Rising after Superstorm Sandy.
New York State owns below the high tide mark at the beach. The beach itself is currently stewarded by the Southampton Town Trustees, who own landward of the high tide mark and use the beach as a staging area to conduct dredging along Goose Creek and Sylvan Canal.
Though the beach is used by swimmers, kayakers, and paddle boarders, it is not a permitted bathing beach, which involves the placement of a lifeguard, bathrooms, and water testing, said the county’s Department of Health Services spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern. She said those factors are not necessarily something the county checks for either.
“The health department’s purview is to test the water at permitted beaches, so this is not a beach that our people are aware of. If it is a beach that is owned by a property owners’ association, it would be the same as a private owner,” she said.
Kelly-McGovern said the county would have to first know if the beach is advertised as a beach, then they could take a look at it. “As of now, it looks like the end of the road to our people if they look on a map,” she added.
There is currently a sign at the beach placed by the Bay View Pines Civic Association stating that the beach is private and visitors are using it at their own risk.
Ed Warner, chairman of the trustees, said the beach is considered a trustee access point for residents to use for recreation such as fishing and kayaking. It is one of a number of beaches for those purposes along with Peconic Road along Shinnecock Bay, and Triton, Dolphin, and Mermaid lanes along Dune Road in East Quogue and Hampton Bays, respectively, according to Warner. To him, visitors should be responsible.
“People have to use common sense and respect the environment. So, it’s putting the question on the people how they use the access,” he said.
The county cited Southampton Town back in 2004 because people were using Trout Pond in Noyac as a swimming area and it was not a permitted bathing beach. The action was spurred after a swimming accident. The town was then forced to place no swimming signs at the location.
A dispute erupted over the beach last month between the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association, which obtained the trustees’ permission to use the beach for a memorial vigil recently, and the Bay View Pines Civic Association. The community association had hoped to hold a candlelight vigil later this month to mark the loss of residents who died over the year, but the civic association opposed the location because it is too small and could create parking issues, instead requesting an alternate location.
Trustee Ann Welker, who is the board’s liaison to the Flanders area, was expected to meet with the community association and the civic association after deadline to discuss the dispute over the beach.