Fire Island Rangers Ban Booze at Problem Beach

Fire Island alcohol ban
Security guards enforce a booze ban in Fire Island Summer Club, a community that borders a federally owned beach that partiers have flocked to and now also has a booze ban. (Timothy Bolger/Long Island Press)

Federal authorities are banning booze on a sliver of western Fire Island that has been a hot spot for about 500 partying beachgoers on summer weekends for at least the past two years.

The Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) said Thursday that starting Aug. 1, alcohol will be prohibited on a section of federally owned beach known as Asparagus Beach, which lies west of Fire Island Summer Club and east of Atlantique, two of the barrier island’s 17 communities.

“A progressive law enforcement approach to enforce the regulation” will be used by federal park rangers that patrol most of the 32-mile island, including the soon-to-be-dry section of beach, FINS said in a statement.

New York State and Town of Islip regulations at beaches surrounding Asparagus Beach also prohibit drinking alcohol, but the new FINS booze ban does not impact rules at other federally owned beaches on the island.

The move follows the East Hampton Town Board’s recent decision to enact a partial ban on alcohol use at Indian Wells Beach in East Hampton.

FINS rangers, Islip Town officials, community leaders and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) announced the booze ban during a news confernce Friday at the Fire Island Ferries terminal in Bay Shore.

Chief Ranger Duane Michael said in a phone interview that between 500 and 1,000 people head to the affected area on a typical summer weekend day.

Partiers at Asparagus Beach, where there are no bathrooms, often relieved themselves in the dunes, he said. Walking on dunes is illegal because it increases beach erosion.

“It’s what protects those communities from the tidal surge,” he said of the dunes.

Islip officials said the beach, which also has no lifeguards, has forced lifeguards in neighboring areas to rescue swimmers in distress. They suspect some of those cases were alcohol related, officials said.

“The last two years it just got worse and worse,” Islip Town Councilman John Cochrane Jr said in a phone interview.

He said partiers were to blame. “They took that whole flavor of sitting in the beach chair and having a beer or two” and ruined it, he said.

Community groups have long complained about the alcohol-fueled rowdy behavior at the beach. Eating and drinking on the beach is illegal in the nearby Village of Ocean Beach, the unofficial capital of Fire Island. Alcohol is also banned on the beach in Cornielle Estates and Fire Island Summer Club, two communities to the west of the village that have hired a private security guards to enforce the ban.

Asparagus Beach partiers include beachgoers that have walked from one of those three communities immediately to the west.

Crews have already begun placing placards in the area warning people about the ban.

With Rashed Mian

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