Let’s Help Ditch Fulfill Its Promise

For all its popularity and spectacular shoreline, Montauk has inadequate beach parking. This is most acutely the case at Ditch Plain, which is both a well-known surf mecca and a sunbathers’ favorite. Parking there seemed almost an afterthought until recently, when East Hampton Town undertook small-scale expansions at so-called Dirt Lot and Otis Road, and the reconfiguration of the main lot closest to the lifeguards.

A further step toward making Ditch beach parking a little more rational is to be considered this evening in Town Hall. Proposals include banning vehicles with trailers, other than those licensed for food vending, and making the main, largest parking lot residents-only. This may be worth a try, but we are not sure it is the best approach.

One concern is that the already bonkers situation at Dirt Lot, especially when there is a good swell running, will be made worse as vehicles with pricey nonresident parking stickers jostle for the few available spots. At Otis Road, the relatively few available parking places already tend to fill up for the day while beachgoers pursue the summer lifestyle on the sand. Cramming all nonresident permit holders into these small spaces is likely to make things worse.

Meanwhile, the larger lot, the one with Ditch’s too-funky restrooms, will be half empty at times, like the residents-only lot at Indian Wells in Amagansett since that restriction was imposed about four years ago. The new rule is expected to pass, however.

The East Hampton Town Board should remain open-minded about Ditch Plain parking as it unfolds between now and the end of the season. One solution might be to allow nonresidents into the big lot after, say, noon, giving the locals first dibs and allowing everyone an equal chance after that. An alternative might be to make the Otis Road or Dirt Lot spaces resident-only. The town could also buy an upland parcel somewhere for parking, with a shuttle bus taking people to the beach.

Or — and this is probably the best idea of all: The town should ante up in a big way to buy the former East Deck Motel property, adding adequate parking and a proper beach facility, like that at Main Beach in East Hampton Village or Sagg Main in Sagaponack. It would be costly, for sure, but a wise investment for the future.

East Hampton’s beaches are its crown jewels. It’s high time that officials in Town Hall, who must realize this, act accordingly. We believe public support for a major upgrade would be overwhelming. Just tweaking parking rules at the most popular stretch of sand in the entire town will never be enough.