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West Hampton Dunes offers advice to Asharoken on beach restoration

A sign indicating private property is posted at

A sign indicating private property is posted at Asharoken Beach which is a private beach in the Village, and runs along Asharoken Avenue and sits on the Long Island Sound, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Credit: Steve Pfost

What Asharoken faces, West Hampton Dunes has finished: creating public access to beaches that had long been private.

Asharoken must provide public access if private beaches damaged by superstorm Sandy are to be restored using federal and state money. West Hampton Dunes opened theirs to the public when a beach restoration project wrapped up there more than a decade ago.

"I'm a very big advocate of public access," said West Hampton Dunes Mayor Gary Vegliante, who grew up in Queens and recalled being unable to visit some of the nicest beaches in the Hamptons.

"I want people on this beach," he said of the village located west of Westhampton Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

A 1995 federal court settlement led Suffolk County, the state and federal governments to pay for the $70 million rebuilding of West Hampton Dunes' beach, where storms in 1992 and 1993 damaged dozens of oceanfront homes and cut a one-mile breach in the 3-mile village.

Under the settlement, the beach became public after it was restored in 1997.

Village officials and residents have mixed feelings about the public access, but they agree the project had to happen.

"We wouldn't have this place if we didn't do it," said John Mueller, 77, who said he has lived in the village since 1975 and has had to rebuild his home several times after storm damage.

A public access walkway was built next to his property. The increase in parking triggered some problems, he said, including people urinating in the dunes and leaving garbage along the beach and walkway. And some beachgoers have asked to use his bathroom. He has put up a "no trespassing" sign.

"The more parking that is accessible to the right of way, the greater the problem," Mueller said.

The village of about 280 homes constructed about 65 parking spots in two lots and seven public access points where wooden staircases and walkways cross the dunes to the beach.

Vegliante said garbage is the biggest complaint related to public access. "They need to respect the beach," he said of beachgoers. "When you leave debris, that's just disrespectful."

He said the village can't put garbage cans at the end of the access walkways because it doesn't want to attract animals.

Asharoken's estimated $20 million to $30 million project is slated for a roughly 2.4-mile stretch on the Long Island Sound side of Asharoken Avenue. Like West Hampton Dunes, the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at replacing sand on the dunes and berms in some areas.

The project also may include installing groins -- structures designed to trap sand -- and breakwaters, which state and federal officials say would help keep sand on the beach.

Asharoken will be developing its public access and parking plan this summer.

Vegliante's advice to the North Shore village: "It's real simple . . . if you want sand, you've got to figure out public access. Sand is your lifeblood."

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