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Fourth of July brings heavy crowds to LI’s state park beaches

Jones Beach drew thousands of people on Tuesday,

Jones Beach drew thousands of people on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Beaches at Long Island’s state parks proved pretty popular this Independence Day, with some closed during the holiday due to capacity crowds.

Sunken Meadow State Park was filled to capacity and closed to incoming traffic at 12:30 p.m., and didn’t reopen until 6 p.m., said George Gorman, state parks deputy regional director for Long Island. The park had about 70,000 visitors.

“It’s either a record crowd or a near-record crowd,” Gorman said.

Robert Moses State Park closed for about 10 minutes around 1:30 p.m., Gorman said. More than 60,000 people spent the holiday there.

Long Island’s smaller state parks, such as Orient Beach, Wildwood, Hither Hills, Caumsett, Valley Stream and Hempstead Lake, also closed at various points during the day because of the crowds. They had all reopened by 6:30 p.m.

At Jones Beach, about 100,000 people hit the sand during the day. Gorman said officials expected another influx of people to arrive at night to see the fireworks.

State officials had thought they would see more beachgoers on Monday before the holiday, but those crowds never materialized. Instead, people were staying later on Tuesday evening, leading officials to believe that people would take off from work on Wednesday.

By midmorning, Gorman said, vehicles had backed up six miles from the traffic circle at the end of Robert Moses Causeway to Montauk Highway in West Islip.

The Fourth is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year, Gorman said, but “these are the heaviest crowds we’ve seen in three years.” He estimated his facilities would welcome 250,000 visitors during the day and another 100,000 at night for fireworks.

With Joie Tyrrell

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