As I think the entire country knows, in the year 2010, Cooper’s Beach in Southampton was selected as the Most Beautiful Beach in America. The honor was bestowed by Dr. Steven Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach,” who has for the last 21 years from his perch as Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research, visited thousands of beaches around the country and evaluated them scientifically in 50 different categories. These include the quality of the sand, the cleanliness of the facilities, the beauty of the surroundings, the weather, the crowds, the quality of the water and so forth and so on.
At that time, Cooper’s Beach was rated #1, and East Hampton Main Beach was rated #5 by Dr. Beach, up from #6 the previous year. Many think that the classic lines of Main Beach are superior to those at Cooper’s, but then, having two beaches in the top 10 of the thousands and thousands of beaches that Dr. Beach had sifted through (so to speak), was certainly something. Mayor Mark Epley and the Southampton Chamber of Commerce were very proud and made the most of the #1 designation in publicity and marketing around the country. It’s believed the designation improves visitor totals by 20% or more. Indeed it is quite an honor.
Well, that was last year. A week ago, the ratings came out for 2011 and this time Main Beach in East Hampton is #4, up from #5. As for Southampton, it is nowhere. It is gone, no longer anywhere on the top 10 at all. It’s an astonishing thing. Here it was in 2010 that the groundskeepers and trash removal people and the pavilion people and the beachboys and lifeguards worked and worked and worked to make Cooper’s Beach #1. And after the designation, of course, they worked even harder. What could go wrong? So what the hell?
Had Dr. Beach come by earlier this summer on that terrible day when herds of endangered piping plover birds had landed on the beach and pooped everywhere and nobody was allowed to clean up the mess because of where it came from?
I remember that day and the days that followed. It was pretty awful.
But you’d think for that transgression it might have dropped to #4 or #5. But all the way off the Top Ten?
Dr. Beach spends his days—and he has said he thinks he has the best job in the world—tromping around on the various beaches everywhere making his careful ratings. He goes to all the beaches incognito so as not to be bothered when he makes his measurements and ratings. (Everybody is in bathing suits—so he shows up in a black cape and sunglasses?) It’s on the up and up.
The news of the toppling of Cooper’s Beach from #1 was announced on May 27 in an article in The New York Post.
LONG ISLAND BEACH RATED NATION’S FOURTH BEST they headlined, completely failing to note the collapse over at Cooper’s.
“Long Island’s Main Beach in East Hampton is the nation’s fourth best, according to a new survey,” the reporter wrote. “Topping the list is Sarasota Florida’s Siesta Beach.”
The Post described Siesta Beach, which I have never been to and hope I never have to go to, as 40 acres along a barrier island key in the Gulf of Mexico, consisting of almost pure quartz crystal sand.
“It’s like sugar, and you have to bring sunglasses it’s so bright,” said Dr. Beach at his press conference about it. “Some people can’t believe it…It’s super soft and super fine. They claim to have the finest, whitest sand in the world, and I can’t argue with that.”
Coronado Beach in San Diego was the runner-up to Siesta Beach. Number 3 was Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, and #4 was, ahem, Main Beach in East Hampton.
But then The Post reported more about the wonderful Siesta Beach. On the west coast of Florida, it was in the crosshairs of the floating BP oil spill, though at the last minute, the oil spill went somewhere else. But still, BP crews continue to scour all the nearby beaches, including Siesta, looking for scattered tar balls. It’s also true that there are condos within view of this beach, which is not good for a rating, and there is an 800-car parking lot, which usually gets full to overflowing by late morning. Apparently, the place is packed.
Dr. Beach at his press conference noted that in 2009, Siesta Beach was in the top 10, but in 2010 it was knocked off the list because, as Dr. Beach said, it was in “the line of fire,” of the oil slick. But then, when it dodged that bullet, there it was again, ta da, in 2011, now #1.
“Even when the oil spill occurred, I said oil is not going to get to the Sarasota beaches and southwest Florida,” Dr. Beach said, ignoring the fact that what he really did was pull Siesta from his list as the oil slick approached. “A big loop current trapped the oil 100 miles offshore. And the oil just spun and spun in the Gulf, and, in fact, right now we can hardly find any of it, even in the areas which did have oil and tar on the beaches in the Panhandle.”
It’s interesting to note that Dr. Beach, in addition to rating all of America’s beaches every year, offers a service to each of the communities around the country that are in charge of beaches. For $800 a year, Dr. Beach will provide a monthly evaluation of a beach. What he gets in every month are “self-reported” data from the beach owners. He then replies and issues his advice on maintaining environmental quality through “proactive management.” He is, after all, the expert on keeping participating beaches nice and tidy and spruced up to look their best—although their participation in this service does not, he says, get them any special treatment when it comes time for him to evaluate the top 10. He accepts no money when he rates the top 10.
As it turns out, the problem with Cooper’s Beach slipping all the way off the radar has nothing to do with anything other than the rules that Dr. Beach set up when he began rating beaches 21 years ago. The rules state that when a beach wins the #1 spot, it is from that year forward no longer eligible to be considered again.
That’s right. This is not a contest where every year all the beaches in the country are evaluated against one another again and again. It is not possible to be #1 in one particular year and then #1 the next year or even #10 the next year. The winning beach is simply banished! It would be as if the Yankees, winning the World Series, would then be dropped from the Major Leagues and not ever allowed to compete again.
What kind of cockamamie rule is this?
What Dr. Beach really is saying is that since this is his 21st year making this award, there are 20 beaches in America that are better than Cooper’s. Cooper’s is ranked #21 and Siesta #22 if you think about it. They’re way down the list.
This bodes very badly for Main Beach, East Hampton. It’s now #4, up from #5. Before that it was #6 and #7. East Hampton Main Beach is marching headlong into a Kiss of Death. It happened to Cooper’s. It will, it seems, soon happen to Main.
I think the East Hampton Village Board should send a letter to Dr. Beach declaring that under no circumstances should they ever be rated #1. Rate them #1 and they sue. Number 2 is nice. Maybe every year #2 would be nice. Always the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
I wonder what Dr. Beach would say to that? [/expand]