Half of the beach and parking area at Robert Moses State Park Field 5 is expected to be closed the entire summer following the worst erosion there in at least two decades.
Rough surf and tide surges from offshore storms have carried away so much sand this spring that the western half of the Field 5 beach is underwater at high tide.
The severe erosion runs more than 2,000 feet along the shore from the center of Field 5 west into the Field 4 beach.
At low tide, the beach measures about 60 feet wide - from the ocean to the dunes - and at high tide, it's gone. The gradual slope of the dune has been replaced by an 8-foot cliff.
One coastal expert, Jay Tanski with the New York Sea Grant program, said a break in the offshore sand bar appears to have funneled more wave force to that area of Robert Moses.
The state parks department fenced off almost the entire west half of the parking lot, more than 1,200 parking spaces. The beach at Field 5 can normally accommodate 10,000 sun worshipers.
Some lifeguards will be transferred next weekend from Field 5 to Field 4, and the beach there will be open on Thursdays and Fridays as well as weekends starting in July.
"Over the last week, we had additional significant erosion at the west side of the beach at Robert Moses Field 5," said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for state parks. "The surf cut into the dunes and at high tide there is no beach for people to put their blankets on. This is the worst erosion at that section of Robert Moses that we have seen since at least two decades."
There are no short-term plans to place sand onto the eroded area.
"At this time of year, we usually see sand being replenished," Gorman said. So he expects the parking and beach closure to be in effect for the remainder of the summer.
Tanski said the erosion was not unexpected. "It's not unusual. We haven't had reports of erosion in other areas but we do get spot erosion based on local conditions. There has been spot erosion in that area for years."