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The heat is on at area beaches Recent hot weather has had people trying to rush the season, which officially opens today at the region's waterfront parks

Summer is making an early splash in Buffalo, with temperatures expected to hit the mid- to high 80s each day this Memorial Day weekend.

Area residents are thrilled at the prospect of having to slather on sunscreen a full month before the Summer Solstice.

"We're well above the average of 70 for a daytime high," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Mitchell, who added that highs through Monday will be in the mid- to upper 80s.

The unusually warm weather has sent people flocking to beaches, and that's caused a bit of confusion -- and some ticketing. Most beaches in the area are officially opening today, but most will be open only on weekends, at least through mid- to late June.

A few will allow swimming this weekend, but most won't have lifeguards until summer is in full swing.

Many people already have been hitting the beaches, but a few sun-worshippers who headed to Bennett Beach earlier this week were in for a bit of beach bummer when they found the gates to the county-run beach closed.

Worse yet, Town of Evans police were ticketing cars parked along Old

Lake Shore Road.

"They promote they want the waterfront to be beautiful, but then they don't let you get to it, and they give you tickets when you try to park on the road," said Julie Violanti, who tried going to the beach Thursday with her family. "It's ridiculous."

Evans police have been dealing with the parking problem daily for about two weeks, and at times there have been as many as 50 to 60 illegally parked vehicles, said Lt. Tom George.

"We just can't allow them to park on the road," he said. "The liability is going to fall upon us."

Evans police and Erie County sheriff's deputies also have been ticketing people for underage drinking but have been letting beachgoers enjoy the weather.

"Those who mind their own business, using the park as it's intended to be, we have no problem with," said Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Ron Kenyon.

Bennett and Wendt beaches will be open from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today, Sunday and Monday, but swimming will remain off-limits until lifeguards are hired in late June.

"The beaches are open, if you want to go down there and play KanJam or throw a football on the beach, feel free," said Erie County Parks Commissioner Troy Schinzel.

During the week, gates will remain closed until the county can allocate more workers to the beaches to monitor them and prepare them for the summer months with signage and other work.

"As long as you're parking in a safe and legal place, you can still access the park," Schinzel said. "I don't have staff here, so until I get that there on a Monday-through-Friday, seven-day-a-week basis, the gate will be locked just on the weekdays and the weekends will be open."

The county started getting calls about parks and beaches earlier this year because of the unusually warm spring, Schinzel said.

"Really, it's been a Catch-22 for us," Schinzel said. "We felt the early spring in a lot of different operational facets of the parks, because all of a sudden it's 80 degrees in March. 'Why aren't your tennis nets up? Why aren't we golfing? Why aren't the beaches open?' In Buffalo, that's not the time frame for these things."

Beaver Island State Park and Evangola State Park also will be open from dawn until dusk on the weekends and they're both allowing swimming. Lifeguards will be stationed from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Woodlawn Beach State Park, operated by the Town of Hamburg, will be open every day starting today. Swimming will be allowed.

But be warned, the water will be chilly. Friday, it was only 61 degrees.

This weekend's summerlike weather is also expected to draw boaters to lakes and rivers.

At a news conference at the Erie Basin Marina, Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard, along with the sheriff's marine unit, urged boaters to use caution and courtesy on the water.

In response to complaints from boaters last year about being stopped for inspections multiple times by various agencies, Howard showed off new state inspection decals that will be given to boaters. The decals, which are dated, show other agencies that a vessel had been recently inspected.

The season's warm weather already has made the record books, with Friday's high of 86 tying highs set in 1975, 1944 and 1908, Jim Mitchell said.

The whole weekend, he said, "will be one of the warmest Memorial Day weekends on record, for sure."

The summerlike temperatures are expected to last through Monday, with todaysat shaping up to be the most pleasant day, Mitchell said.

email: mbecker@buffnews.com, djewell@buffnews.com and jrey@buffnews.com