SCARBOROUGH — It’s officially beach season.
The Memorial Day weekend was the informal start of summer, with the town opening and staffing the parking lots at the three municipal beaches, the police increasing patrols near the sand and surf, and residents and tourists alike queued up for beach passes.
Beach visits were up this year at all the beaches over the holiday weekend.
By Tuesday, the town had sold 734 seasonal passes, which grant access to Higgins Beach, Ferry Beach and Pine Point. That’s up from 700 by the same time last year.
At Pine Point, 550 day passes were sold, versus 408 last year. Higgins was up from 99 day passes in 2011 to 164 last weekend. Ferry Beach showed the most modest increase, from 219 to 221. Day passes are $10 each and season passes start at $20.
Growing attendance could be the result of the beautiful weather last weekend, and Higgins’ huge growth spurt might be thanks to the addition of a municipal parking lot, which opened for the first time last year. But Bruce Gullifer, director of Community Services, said it could also be frugal families still weathering the economy.
“There’s a lot of ‘staycations’ and we think people are going to stay in the area,” he said. “If nice weather comes, people in our area will go to the beaches because we’ve got some of the nicest ones in the state.”
Now, Community Services and the Police Department will shift gears to adopt to the increased pedestrian and vehicle traffic at the beaches.
Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, the beaches are not maintained, except for check-ins after large storms. Town workers don’t clean the beaches at all during the off season.
Now, workers from Public Works will clean the beaches weekly with a large rake pulled behind a tractor, clearing seaweed and debris. Ten Community Services employees will staff the municipal parking lots at each beach, taking money from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day.
Every summer, the Police Department stations reserve officers at Higgins Beach and Pine Point. Those officers are responsible for parking enforcement and emergency response.
This year, police have three extra officers – two hired with money from a federal grant and one returned from academy training. Police Chief Robbie Moulton said the extra officers would be used to handle the huge spike in traffic that comes with beach season.
“We’re going to do enhanced traffic enforcement all over town,” he said. That includes “data-drive enforcement,” which has officers analyze instances of accidents, drivers running red lights, etc., in order to find traffic hot-spots.
Moulton said most incidents at Scarborough’s beaches are parking or drinking violations, or people going the wrong way down one-way streets. The town hasn’t had many problems with theft or other victimizing crimes.
“It’s kind of business as usual, but with a lot more traffic and people, that’s the way it impacts us,” he said. “We’ll gear up for the kids being out of school, or the partying we keep an eye on, plus the traffic congestion.”