Georgica Beach -- one of the best-known and exclusive beaches on the East End -- hasn't eroded this badly in 50 years, according to East Hampton Village administrator Larry Cantwell.
"We couldn't open it the way it looks today," he said. "We have aerial photos [of hurricane damage] from 1962. . . . That's what it looks like."
Georgica is one of three beaches in the village with lifeguards, but parking is by permit only -- even East Hampton Town residents can't use their beach permits in the village.
While anyone can park by the beaches in the winter, the village enforces a strict requirement mandating parking permits from May 15 to Sept. 15. Those who park without a permit will be towed and fined $150.
The beaches open starting Friday to Sunday on Memorial Day weekend, and are open every day of the week beginning on the last Saturday in June. Still, out of season, the small beach draws surfers, photographers, dog walkers and others.
"It's a very personal beach," said coastal geologist Aram Terchunian of Westhampton Beach-based First Coastal, an environmental consulting and contracting firm. "People just love that beach. I can't remember a time, no matter what time of year, when I went out and didn't see somebody there. In the dead of winter, at 4 p.m. It didn't matter."
Beaches on the East End normally build up through the spring and summer, as the wind direction changes and more sand is deposited and washed away. But it's not clear to East Hampton officials whether the beach will recover in time to be used this summer.
Terchunian blames the problem on a hole in an offshore sandbar which allows waves to hit the beach at Georgica at full strength, the same kind of local "hot spot" that caused so much damage to Field 5 at Jones Beach last year.
East Hampton village officials hope the problem will solve itself before summer, but are also working on a backup plan, seeking permission from the county health department to bring in portable toilets and open Wiborg Beach to public bathing. That beach, on Highway Behind the Pond next to the Maidstone Club, is one of two owned by the village that does not have lifeguards and where swimming is not permitted.
Village officials said they have no plans to bring in more sand to shore up the beach because that would be too expensive and would take too long.
Even with the potential loss of Georgica Beach, East Hampton Village's 2,900 non-resident summer beach parking permits -- the village has a strict limit on how many it will sell -- were all gone by the third week in March, a little earlier than usual.
This year, the village is expanding its daily non-resident beach parking program. There will be 25 parking tickets on sale at Main Beach and Two Mile Hollow Beach every Friday, Saturday and Sunday and on holidays. The single-day tickets cost $25 each and are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Main Beach has about 300 parking spaces, while Two Mile Hollow Beach has 211.