I had never heard of a beach being closed on Fathers Day weekend before. There have been threats of closings that were fortunately avoided, but I have never arrived at a beach on a summer weekend and found it padlocked. That all changed when I arrived at Shoreham Beach on Saturday.
Winding along North Country Road, I spotted 7 or 8 cars parked near the entrance to this beach, operated by the town of Brookhaven. My initial reaction was that the parking lot was full, and the overflow resorted to using the shoulder of the road. Perfect weather on a Saturday in June; "the beach is packed" I thought to myself. But as I neared the entrance, I realized the gates were closed. No problemo; I grabbed my bag and began the half mile trek up the access road that leads to the beach.
It was an easy walk, but I was by myself and traveling light. If I had children with me and several items to carry, it would not have been feasible. I found myself brainstorming different scenarios as to why the beach was closed: was the road ahead washed out; maybe there was some sort of contamination from the nearby Shoreham plant; or perhaps there was another entrance I was unaware of.
While there are many stretches of Long Island Sound I am quite familiar with, the 25 miles dividing Port Jefferson from Mattituck remain mostly a mystery to me. With no harbors, the towns along this uninterupted shoreline were never a place to visit by boat. Other than a few scenic-route drives returning from Greenport, my only exposure to this area has been from several miles offshore.
It is a long, lonely, shoreline that is mostly deserted, except for the occasional shore club or town beach, spread out at the bottom of a ravine. Atop the bluffs, a water tower and random house are all that break the horizon and allow one to mark their progress. A dune buggy, or a fisherman in an old jeep might be the only welcome distractions.
Arriving at the beach, I found just a handful of people scattered across the endless sand. I wanted to find out why the beach was closed. Near the pathway that descends the bluff, I asked a couple who were leaving, but they only responded by shouting "What?", before continuing on their way. Another group of 5 made sure to look away as I approached. Maybe I looked like a town constable, I don't know.
But as I started walking eastward along the beach, I noticed a girl about my age (alright, a middle aged woman), with way too much makeup and too small a bathing suit, staring at me. She yelled something out to me, that I didn't comprehend. JACKPOT!!!!
Her name was Michelle and she wanted to know if the gates were still closed. I told her they were, and she proceeded to tell me the different theories as to why the beach was closed. Lying on her back and moving her legs in a windshield-wiper motion, she said she had heard several stories. One story claimed Brookhaven was overrun with illegal immigrants using the beach. Another involved late night parties and vandalism. The third was that the town was broke and could not afford to open the beach.
She asked me if I wanted to hang around, but I told her I had plans to meet some friends in Rocky Point later in the day. "Oh you are meeting friends" she responded. Rather than waste the next hour convincing her I was straight, I bid farewell and wandered eastward. In retrospect, I really should have taken a picture of her; she was a piece of work.
I continued on, meeting a college couple with a kayak and fishing pole, who were just waking up, and two ederly men with their grandchildren in a beached dory loaded with the summer essentials. They all told me variations of the same stories. I found it odd that the reasons a beach was closed on a June weekend was still left to speculation and rumour. Why was there no community outrage? Was there a community? Had these small agricultural and weekend towns sold their soul to CVS and Home Depot long ago? Were the hungover college lovers, the two grandpas, Ms Cameltoe, and myself, the only people determined to visit a beach instead of spending a summer day at the mall?
Personally, I don't buy any of the reasons for closing Shoreham Beach! If there has been vandalism or trouble after-hours, restricting access to everyone does nothing to resolve the issue. Turning the beach into an abandoned park solves nothing. It only punishes those who are not a problem. As for the budget issues, in the broad sweep of things, beaches and parks are not the reason towns are broke. Also, it would be interesting to see how many corporations in the town of Brookhaven are screaming about socialism, yet also receive taxpayer subsidies.
There is more to this story, but it will take me 3 posts to complete. About a year ago, I wrote a post stating that if I was using a grading system, Caumsett State Park would receive an A, maybe an A+. I never chose to implement that grading system, but if I did, Shoreham Beach, despite its beauty, would receive an F, maybe an F-.
To be continued