MASTIC BEACH - The outer beach at Smith Point County Park is closed to vehicles, angering residents who paid for permits to be able to drive onto the beach.

Officials say the beach is closed to vehicles to protect the piping plover, an endangered bird residing in the area. Suffolk County officials say they are required by federal law to restrict access to protect the bird.

Residents say normally the outer beach is closed for about two weeks each season while the birds are nesting, but this year it has been closed for nearly two months.

Residents say they understand protecting endangered species, but they are upset that they are unable to use the permits that cost more than $100.

The county says permit holders will not get refunds, because they have signed an agreement stating there will be no refunds or credits. Permit holders are being urged to use four other beaches in the county, where they can park for free.