By Mary Thurwachter
Like all parks in Lantana, the beach is officially shut from sundown to sunrise. But the gates are not closed and cars can drive into the parking lot and people still have access to the shoreline.
Council member Ed Shropshire wonders whether that shouldn’t change and proposes that the gates close from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
During a discussion at the March 25 council meeting, Shropshire said he had gone to the beach several times before it opened at sunrise and was concerned about what he saw.
“There seems to be a group of individuals that like to go there at night, particularly on weekends, and the behavior is less than exemplary,” he said. “I think we may want to consider closing the beach from like 10 o’clock at night to 7 in the morning. This will also eliminate some illegal parking by certain entities that use the beach as a private parking lot. It would also keep it cleaner and probably make it safer for residents.”
Shropshire said he had found enough beer bottles and hypodermic needles during beach cleanups to think that closing the gates at night might be warranted, but he wanted feedback from other members of the council as well as residents.
Mayor Dave Stewart said the town had contractual obligations to the Dune Deck, a beachside cafe that opens at 7 a.m. but has employees coming in an hour earlier.
Council member Lynn Moorhouse said not much could be done to change morning hours because of the Dune Deck, but he thought if something could legally be done regarding night hours it might be safer to have the beach closed. Opposition to the nighttime shutdown came from council member Phil Aridas, who said he didn’t want police walking the beach to clear it at night. “I just don’t see it happening,” he said. “Leave our beaches open. Some people work at night and want to go and watch the moon.”
Vice Mayor Malcolm Balfour said he likes to occasionally visit the beach at night and had been there recently to watch a full moon.
Police Chief Sean Scheller and Town Manager Deborah Manzo will study the matter to see it there is a problem and report back to council.
In other news, the council:
• Witnessed the swearing in of Moorhouse and Balfour, who were unopposed in the recent election.
• Chose Michelle Donahue as a regular member of the planning commission. Donahue had been an alternate member. A replacement for her position as an alternate will be filled at a later date.