South Fork residents want ban of 4-wheel drive vehicles on Napeague Beach

Opponents to public access for off-road vehicles at an Amagansett beach want to reverse a decades-old policy of allowing drivers on the sand.

Currently, beachgoers can buy permits to drive their four-wheel drive vehicles on Napeague Beach.

But more than 100 local homeowners have filed a lawsuit to block such access. They say on busy summer weekends, the entire beach fills up with vehicles.

"It's a very densely populated area, and for the children and grandchildren who try to traverse the beach, to get to the shoreline amid a flurry of traffic of SUVs and pickup trucks and cars moving back and forth, we find that it's incredibly unsafe," says Cindi Crain, of Amagansett.

According to the lawsuit, a deed from the 1800s shows that five homeowner associations actually own the beach. East Hampton town disputes that claim and says the beach has always been public property.

Opponents of the lawsuit allege that the homeowners are trying to get ownership of the beach so they can close it off to many of the surrounding area's blue-collar families, who have been coming here for generations.

East Hampton officials say they are looking into the cost of buying the beach through eminent domain -- just in case they lose the court battle. The town says it wants to keep the beach open to four-wheel drive vehicles.

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