Long Sands Beach is seen in York. Credit: Richard Beauchesne | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — Despite the near freezing temperatures outside on Nov. 18, the Board of Selectmen spent some time at its last meeting talking about health and safety issues at the beach. Issues discussed included public drinking, oversized sun canopies and trash removal.

Ryan Coite, parks foreman, told selectmen alcohol consumption at the beach is getting out of hand.

“I can tell you that in my time it has gotten worse each year,” Coite said. “I used to lifeguard at the beach and back then people at least tried to hide it.”

Selectman Robert Palmer Jr. suggested the increase in drinking might be due to more rigorous enforcement of alcohol bans at New Hampshire beaches. Rye and Hampton, for example, have zero tolerance policies for public consumption of alcohol and those town’s police logs include many citations for alcohol violations in the summer.

Town Manager Steve Burns suggested selectmen consider asking the York Police Department to provide some additional seasonal enforcement to address the problem.

“Bust a few people,” Burns said. “That’s the long and short of it.”

Selectmen Chairman Todd Frederick cited York’s reputation as a family-friendly beach.

“If there’s a problem, we certainly need to address it,” Frederick said. “[We’re] not Panama City party time.”

Selectmen Michael Estes said he’d need more information before supporting funding for additional enforcement.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of an alcohol problem at our beach,” Estes said.

Coite also alerted the board to a growing problem of people staking out beach territory with oversized pop-up canopies.

“We have received feedback from the public and our staff regarding the excessive use of EZ-up canopies and shade structures,” Coite said in a memo to the board. “Some of these canopies are set up very early to reserve premium beach space and sometimes never used during the day. This has been problematic for our beach cleaning contractor and has been challenging for our lifeguards due to poor line of sight to the water. We are exploring options for recommending a reasonable policy for use of these structures on our beaches.”

Selectman Marilyn McLaughlin said as “a grandmother with kids at the beach, I would not say outlaw canopies” because they offer protective cover from the sun.

Coite said the Parks and Recreation Department is also in discussions with Casella Waste Systems about adding pickup along Long Sands and Short Sands to its current contract. He said Casella has made a preliminary proposal to provide that pickup from Memorial Day until Labor Day for $126,000.

Selectmen agreed to go forward with the additional trash funding as a policy item. Burns said he believes they will discuss the matter again Jan. 13.