BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Erie County officials decided to close down parking and facilities at Bennett Beach in Angola, NY during weekdays earlier this year after discovering the mess left by some beach-goers during the warm spell this Spring.
That policy is still in effect, meaning the hundreds of area residents that came to the beach to begin their holiday weekend Friday were forced to park along the road or in small available green spaces near the gated entrance to the parking lot.
As a result, the Town of Evans Police Department was forced to issue more than 50 parking citations and impounded three vehicles for illegal parking.
Many returning to their vehicles after a day at the beach expressed their frustrations.
"It was ridiculous because the parking lot was closed and we got ticketed," said Sandy Bodami, who was celebrating a friends birthday at the beach.
The County is allowing visitors to access the beach itself, however the bathroom facilities are closed, the parking lot is locked shut, and there are no attendants and lifeguards on duty.
A county spokesman told Eyewitness News that it is trying to maintain access for residents, but that there is not enough staff this early in the season to keep the parking, swimming and bathroom facilities open.
However with no supervision, the clearly posted policies of 'no alcohol' and 'no swimming without a lifeguard' were being ignored.
Our cameras even caught a vicious beach brawl between two women who eyewitnesses say were intoxicated.
The county spokesperson says the Commissioner of Parks has been working closely with the legal department concerning the beach policy, but agreed that allowing unsupervised use of the beach could lead to potential issues.
Will the actions of a few force Erie County to completely shut-down beach access for all residents until fully staffed?
County Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel was not immediately available to answer that question Friday. The county spokesperson did say, however, that lifeguards will be on staff at the beach around mid-June, and that parking and bathroom facilities at Bennet Beach will be open all weekend, including Monday.
As for the parking problems during the week when the lot is closed, a majority of the patrons who spoke with Eyewitness News said they would be willing to pay to use the parking lot if it meant avoiding a long, hot walk and the possibility of a parking ticket.