Thousands of people will spend a day or two at Woodlawn Beach during the 4th of July holiday week. The stretch of sand on Lake Erie in Hamburg has grown to be a popular summer destination for many Western New Yorkers.
"This is maybe the nicest stretch of sand beach in all of Lake Erie," Hamburg Town Supervisor Jim Shaw said with pride.
The town operates Woodlawn Beach State Park through a contract with New York State. Since taking over at the start of 2011, the park has generally seen an increase in visitors each year. Due in part to poor weather, 2017 saw visitor numbers drop.
But, with more people, Shaw and others are worried about the potential for more problems.
"The heat. The alcohol. The heavy music. This could be a prescription for some difficulties," Shaw said. "So we decided to really enforce the alcohol ban on the beach to make it more family friendly than party central."
Alcohol has always been banned at Woodlawn Beach, save for inside the restaurant and a separate tiki bar area with liquor permits. In previous years, however, Hamburg Police Chief Gregory Wickett admits the enforcement was lax.
"We want people to feel they can bring small children and enjoy a day at the beach without worrying about rowdy behavior," Wickett said.
Wickett and Shaw both say there has not been any serious problems with rowdy behavior, but want to take proactive steps to keep the atmosphere at Woodlawn fun for families.
The town is hiring six new security guards at Woodlawn Beach to remind people of the alcohol ban. Those guards will also check coolers coming on to the beach.
Hamburg Police already have regular patrols in the park and have a small facility on the property to quickly address any problems.
"We will issue tickets if we need to, but that's not the goal," Wickett said.
7 Eyewitness News interviewed five people at the beach on Tuesday. Every person agreed the park is family friendly and say they've never noticed any issues with rowdy behavior.