Portions of the bluffs in Montauk collapsed onto the beach below, making a popular hiking trail there difficult to navigate following the March nor’easters that battered the region.
The storms cut the bluffs as much as 15 feet inland in some locations in and around Shadmoor State Park, according to East Hampton Town environmental analyst Andy Drake, who spoke about the erosion at a recent town board work session.
The bluffs have been eroding at an estimated 1.8 feet per year over the past 11 years, Drake said, but the severe March storms took out a much larger chunk quicker than usual.
“I’ve never seen, in the time I’ve been here, such immediate damage done like these storms have done,” said Drake, who has worked for the town for the past five years.
On Friday, town workers cut two new trail sections in Shadmoor farther away from the cliff’s edge and added four sections of split-rail fencing to direct walkers to the new paths. They also repositioned signs that read “Danger: Bluff Erosion” that warned hikers away from the edge.
A third area in Montauk’s nearby Rheinstein Estate Park also was left vulnerable, but wetlands prevent the town from rerouting the trail there. Drake floated the idea of placing a boardwalk in the area, noting the work would require permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The bluff walk, a half-mile stretch along the coast about 70 feet above sea level, offers some of Long Island’s most picturesque views and is used by surfers to access a popular surf break near Ditch Plains.
“Shadmoor has more users walking this trail than any other place in the town, I believe,” Drake said.
The park has been susceptible to sudden erosion before. In 2003, a section of bluff the size of a house collapsed, leading East Hampton to declare a state of emergency for a time.
Other oceanfront areas in Montauk also have sustained significant erosion recently.
Earlier this month, work was begun to rebuild an artificial dune after the storms exposed a half-mile-long stretch of sandbags buried in 2015 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to combat erosion along the beach. That work is expected to cost the town $1,050,000 to complete.