The summer has gotten off to a rocky start with a rash of vandalism and nighttime parties at South Cape Beach State Park, prompting management to close the beach to visitors after 8 PM for the remainder of the season.
The gates to the park have traditionally been open for nighttime visitors after the park stops charging for beach parking at 5 PM.
The new gate closing policy took effect after the July Fourth holiday weekend.
John J. Singleton, facilities supervisor for the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which oversees the park for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, said the new policy has been very effective in curtailing rowdy after-dark behavior at the beach.
“We cater to people during the day, not people at night. Closing the gates at 8 PM is the best thing we’ve ever done,” he said.
He also noted that the amount of trash, including hypodermic needles, that beach staff have needed to clean up each morning has been reduced significantly.
At the Tuesday, July 15, meeting of the South Cape State Beach Advisory Committee at Mashpee Town Hall, Mr. Singleton described some of the hooliganism that occurred at the park earlier this season.
On June 29, a lifeguard chair was burned by seven college students who had decided to sleep on the beach at night.
“We’ve lost lifeguard chairs to the weather, but never had one used for a bonfire before,” he said.
The students were not charged with malicious destruction of property, as they agreed to pay for the damage.
Mr. Singleton also reported that he came across a full-fledged party, complete with a disc jockey with generator-powered speakers, set up on the beach one evening.
On a different occasion earlier this month, he found 21 wood pallets that were being prepared for a major bonfire on the beach at the end of Will’s Work Road. The gate at the end of the newly re-graded road, which leads to Callie’s Beach, will also be closed nightly at 8 o’clock.
“On the morning of July 6, I have never seen more liquor bottles strewn on the beach,” Mr. Singleton, who has worked at the beach for 14 years, said.
Mashpee Department of Public Works Director Catherine E. Laurent said there have not been any issues so far this summer at the town-owned portion of South Cape Beach but that the Mashpee Police Department regularly patrols the area at night.
“Any closure of the beach at night would require a vote by the board of selectmen,” she said.