Norton Point Beach Will Close to Protect Piping Plover Chicks

By JAMES KINSELLA

A vehicle closure to protect piping plovers may be imminent at Norton Point beach in Edgartown.

The action comes against a backdrop in which Dukes County Sheriff Michael A. McCormack has agreed to take on beach management for the county.

Two piping plover nests have been found on the beach, about 400 yards from the western end at Katama. Another nest has been found on State Beach.

County manager E. Winn Davis said Wednesday he had been advised by Robert Culbert, a consultant to the county, that the plovers may hatch by the end of this week.

Piping plovers are a threatened species and receive special protection under state law.

Once the plovers hatch, the county will enforce a state-mandated four-wheel-drive vehicle closure for 30 days near the nests on Norton Point. The move will close off access along the beach from its western end. Vehicles will still be able to travel onto the beach from the eastern, or Chappaquiddick, end, which is owned by The Trustees of Reservations.

Vehicles do not travel on State Beach, but the county will close off the area around the plover nest on that beach to pedestrians for 30 days once the plovers hatch.

Plovers are flightless immediately after hatching, and are tended by their parents until they fledge. This makes them susceptible to getting run over by vehicles or stepped on by humans.

Deputies from the sheriff's department will enforce the closures once they take effect. Mr. Culbert, who is the former county beach manager, resigned about six weeks ago.

Sheriff McCormack will now be in charge of managing Norton Point, which the county owns, and State Beach and Eastville Beach, which are owned by the state but managed by the county.

Mr. Davis said sheriff department deputies will be patrolling the beaches. He anticipates that two to three deputies will be out on the beaches during the weekends.

Using the sheriff's department for beach management is expected to save the county about $45,000 this year.

Mr. Davis has told the county commissioners that it does not make sense to employ two full-time people to manage beaches used mostly for three or so months. By not replacing Mr. Culbert, the county will save about $60,000 in salary and benefits.

The county continues to employ Mr. Culbert as a consultant, and has retained the assistant beach manager, Nathan Durawa, in his job.