State mulls water sports at LI beaches
May 12, 2011 by BILL BLEYER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: John Dunn | Jeanne Baumann of Amityville gets some air while windsurfing at Heckscher State Park in East Islip. (Apr. 17, 2011)
State parks officials Friday will consider whether to allow windsurfing and other water sports at four Long Island beaches.
Surfers, windsurfers and paddlers represented by the Long Island Beach Access Group have been seeking increased access for a decade. Fishermen, who already have beach access, vociferously oppose the move, saying it will interfere with their sport.
Bryan Erwin, chairman of the Long Island State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation commission, said the time is right for shared uses.
"During these awful economic times I think as a commission we should endeavor to open up the beaches for more uses," he said. "There seems to be a need for some of these activities, so we looked at spots that would be safe and practical as well as not upsetting other beach users."
Erwin said he will propose changes at four state parks:
At Heckscher State Park -- the only Long Island state park that allows windsurfing -- paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing would also be permitted.
At Orient Beach State Park, windsurfing would be allowed. Only kayaking and paddleboarding are currently permitted.
At Wildwood State Park, a pilot program would allow windsurfing only on weekdays during the swimming season to determine if there is a conflict with other park users on the long walkway to the beach.
At Caumsett State Park, a year-old master plan calls for car-top launching of canoes and kayaks once a new parking lot near the beach is constructed. Windsurfing will now be considered in addition to the fishing and scuba diving already permitted.
Ronald Foley, regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said his agency would implement the changes -- possibly this season -- if the commission votes to recommend them at its noon meeting at Bethpage State Park.
At Sunken Meadow State Park, where a master plan is being developed to guide future use, "we'll make the question of additional access part of the planning process," Foley said.
Jack Riordan of Brightwaters, spokesman for the beach access group, said, "We appreciate all of the effort of the commissioners and park managers and look forward to working with them to make this access a success."
Fishing groups plan to attend the meeting to protest the proposed changes. Willie Young of Massapequa, a member of the state parks Fishing Advisory Board and president of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, said, "We're against it because windsurfing and fishing are not compatible. It's a danger. Kayaks are OK if they stay out of the way."
Water sports at LI beaches
Increased access for watersports being considered today by Long Island State Park, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission:
HECKSCHER Allow paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing.
ORIENT BEACH Allow windsurfing.
WILDWOOD Allow windsurfing weekdays.
CAUMSETT May allow windsurfing.
SUNKEN MEADOW May allow additional watersports as part of new master plan being developed.