Ditch Parking Problems

Several weeks ago the idea was floated that at least one of the often-packed ocean beach parking lots at Ditch Plain in Montauk be made residents-only. This came in response to complaints that the number of people had overwhelmed the lots, making it almost impossible on sunny summer days for East Hampton Town taxpayers to find a spot unless they arrived shortly after dawn. 

Town stickers are supposed to be valid for as long as the vehicle is owned by a resident or yearly renter, and an apparently unlimited number of permits is available for people from away. This adds up for a limited number of ocean parking areas. Given all that, it is no mystery why griping from all sides is the result.

There is precedent for making certain beaches residents-only to improve the parking situation. A few years back, after complaints that out-of-town renters were filling the residents-only lot at Indian Wells in Amagansett, a small shed for attendants was placed at the parking area entrance, turning back nonresident cars; order — and places to park — was restored.

Ditch Plain creates a different headache for town officials. It has one of the most popular surf breaks on the East Coast and is a favorite for visitors as well as those who call Montauk and the rest of the Town of East Hampton home. A hard-to-pin-down number of surf school operators have set up shop there, too, adding to the general mayhem. Change is needed. Our suggestion is simple.

On a trial basis, the town should make Ditch Plain’s three parking lots residents-only on Saturdays and Sundays from July through Labor Day weekend from 9 a.m. to noon. That way, taxpaying families would have a chance to get to the beach with their kids and all their gear. Nonresident permit holders could begin arriving at noon and likely find spots as the morning crowd moved on. Longer-term, the town might develop additional parking on Montauk Highway and offer expanded shuttle service — with surfboard racks! — to take beachgoers to the sand.

We believe that people who own property or actually live within the town’s borders year round must take precedence in meeting that demand. Visitors and nonresidents can be accommodated with a little creative thinking.