Following its success in defeating proposals to build a “service road” from the Robert Moses Causeway to Ocean Beach in the 1950s, the Fire Island Erosion Control Committee was incorporated as the Fire Island Voters Association in 1961. The corporate charter was modified to change the name to Fire Island Association (FIA) in 1981. The FIA Board of Directors comprises the mayors of Ocean Beach and Saltaire and the leaders of eighteen community associations. The Board elects a president, first vice president, treasurer, secretary and three vice presidents every two years.
With approximately 1,600 households paying $75 in annual dues, and many additional contributions to the Association’s Dunes Guardians Committee, FIA raises and spends significant amounts in furtherance of its members’ interests. Only the Association president receives a stipend ($28,000 per year); all other officers and directors contribute services pro bono. The Association retains a Washington representative (Marlowe & Co.), an environment counsel (Holland & Knight, also of Washington), and local public relations counsel (Shapiro Associates of Hauppauge). Other professional services (printing and mailing, legal and various consultants) are retained as needed.
As the successor to organizations that were instrumental in creating the park, FIA’s prime objective is to assure its ongoing effective administration. As a small National Park largely given over to a Wilderness Area, FINS is also unique in that numerous communities and other interest groups are wholly contained within it. Thus, a mutually supportive relationship between the park and the communities is essential. Given the makeup of its board, of the many interest groups on the island, FIA is best situated to communicate with community associations as well as with individual FIA members. But FIA also is aware that only if all island interests are taken account of can this unique unit of the National Park system serve resident and visitor alike, while preserving and conserving its important natural resource and wilderness values for the nation.
A defining characteristic of Fire Island is that it is a developed barrier island that lacks a formal road system. Only by limiting the use of off road vehicles can the island maintain that unique status, which is much valued by park residents and visitors. FIA recognizes that it is primarily the provision of services to Fire Island residents and businesses that occasions most of the driving, and that any reduction in the amount of permitted driving may cause delay and increase the cost of providing those services. How these interests are balanced is critical to maintaining each community’s quality of life.
Non-essential driving on Fire Island should be supplanted, wherever possible, by water transport. In a few cases, homes are accessible only by driving on the beach at some times of year and provision for this access must be made. Apart from these rare cases, however, and aided by the proliferation of 4WD vehicles, off road and beach driving has become a convenience for some. The Association holds that any discretionary driving on Fire Island should be strongly discouraged. That said, the island’s ocean beach has been used for vehicular travel for more than eight decades. Where necessary, it should continue to be used for that purpose.
A narrow, deeply rutted and eroded beach is ill-suited for vehicular transport as well as unattractive to beach users. In contrast, a wide, flat beach can accommodate vehicles, while keeping space between vehicles, beach users and dune vegetation. Vehicle use in these conditions has only a negligible impact on the beach itself, and can be controlled to avoid impact on protected species. At the same time, failure to raise and widen the beach as an element of routine coastal management forces vehicles, including emergency vehicles, to an inland route that can only be traversed slowly, noisily and at a heavy cost to the island’s auto-free character. Consequently, FIA believes that routine beach nourishment, whatever else it may accomplish in terms of protection of property and the island itself, is essential to maintaining the park’s roadless environment. (Note: The community of Cherry Grove is not in favor of beach nourishment. While supporting the balance of the statement, it wishes to be excepted from this paragraph.)
Fire Island Association