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Jun 5, 2019 10:40 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Plovers Threaten Closure Of Picnic Area Drive-On Beach In Southampton Village Through July

Piping plovers are nesting just east of Shinnecock East County Park in Southampton Village.  DANA SHAW
Jun 6, 2019 3:48 PM

The popular drive-on beach in Southampton Village known as the Picnic Area most likely soon will be closed to beach drivers after a number of endangered piping plover nests were discovered.

A few areas near the dunes along the beach, located just east of the Suffolk County Shinnecock East Park, have been roped off by Southampton Town Trustee plover monitors to protect the nests. As of Tuesday morning, vehicles were still able to pass below the rope, but that’s expected to change if the birds produce hatchlings. It’s not clear whether the birds have produced any eggs.

The Trustees operate a program to manage and protect animals and plants that are threatened or endangered. Covered under the program are least terns and piping plovers, along with plants like seabeach amaranths and knotweeds.

The plovers that nest along the Atlantic Coast are protected as “threatened”—meaning they are likely to become endangered in the future—under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and have been since 1985. In order to protect the piping plover, the Trustees follow guidelines set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to erect fencing approximately 1,000 meters on each side of the nests, from the toe of the dune to the water’s edge, during the birds’ reproductive season, before any chicks are due to hatch. The result is a 2,000-meter stretch of beach that is closed off to vehicles.

According to the program, the structures are put in place because the chicks are very small and blend in with the beach. The tiny birds also are unable to fly until they are 25 to 35 days old, but until they can fly they are responsible for finding their own food within the first few hours of hatching. To find food, the baby plovers run back and forth from the beach to the water.

If and when the chicks hatch, the beach will be closed to all vehicular traffic at the Picnic Area. It would most likely remain blocked off through the month of July.

“We’ll follow those protocols exactly until they hatch and they start foraging, and then things have to be adjusted and extended in accordance to federal law,” Southampton Town Trustee Scott Horowitz said on Tuesday. “If the birds are taking precedence, you gotta comply with the Endangered Species Act.”

The Picnic Area is a popular beach for town resident beach drivers. In fact, it is the only stretch of ocean-facing beach in the town where people are permitted to drive and park on the sand during the summer between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with a proper permit. All other ocean-facing beaches are closed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Although traffic on the beach would be closed to vehicles, people will still be allowed to walk on the beach.

Three years ago, access to the beach by four-wheel-drive vehicles was threatened after homeowners along the easternmost portion of Meadow Lane filed a lawsuit against the Trustees, the Village of Southampton and the State Department of Environmental Conservation claiming that the Trustees and village unfairly and illegally allow vehicles on the 2,000-foot stretch of beach during the day in the summertime, while not allowing them at other beaches.

As a result of the lawsuit, village officials proposed legislation to regulate the number of vehicles permitted at the Picnic Area during the day, especially on weekends when it is busiest. The legislation was back-burnered and has not been revisited since, and the lawsuit is still active, though a few of the residents who were initially on the lawsuit as plaintiffs have since been removed.

Under the authority of the Dongan Patent of 1686, the Trustees have historically fought for public beach access for the freeholders of the town, to be able to enjoy the beaches.

This time, that authority may not be enough.

“We have the Dongan Patent, but it doesn’t trump the Federal Endangered Species Act,” Mr. Horowitz said. “We do the best that we can to maintain public access, but at the end of the day, as you know, we have to work with the other agencies and respect birds and the Endangered Species Act.”

Representatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife did not immediately respond to questions about the rules and regulations.

DEC officials said they do not have rules or laws pertaining to particular distances for the protection of piping plovers, but said they generally refer to the USFWS guidelines put in place to prevent any harm to the birds.

They also acknowledged that the unrestricted use of off-road vehicles on beaches where plovers nest, pose a serious threat to the plovers and their young.

Southampton Village officials said they were aware of the situation and that the Trustees manage the plover program for them.

The Trustees typically discuss the plover program during their open meetings every other week, but the topic of plovers at the Picnic Area was not discussed on Monday, despite knowledge of the situation.

“Obviously, we’re all aware of what’s going on,” Mr. Horowitz said. “It’s a fluid situation. With all these nests, you want to see the program be successful, so you do whatever you have to do to comply with every regulation so they can be successful.

“What’s key for the Trustees is to do the best we can to maintain the integrity of the program,” he added.

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Well....just my opinion but ...the plovers are more important....
By Sturgis (611), Southampton on Jun 5, 19 11:50 AM
4 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4663), north sea on Jun 5, 19 12:02 PM
How did the nearby homeowners manage to have the plovers nest where they did?
By country joe (60), sag harbor on Jun 5, 19 1:11 PM
Smells fishy...or like a rat...How c o n v e n i e n t for the ocean front homeowes. They have tried everything to privatize the public oceanfront. I wouldn't put it past them to have placed the nests themselves.
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Jun 5, 19 3:07 PM
They used their Dark State contacts for this...its all hush hush..need to know basis...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 5, 19 4:28 PM
LOL - you cannot place a plover nest or even move one. They're more like areas carved out in the sand near beach patches of beach grass.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 5, 19 4:30 PM
LOL, money can buy anything silly. I bought a can of alphabet soup and I spelled "troll" today at lunch. So far this week Alphabet soup, aka adlkjidkwtf...you've made fun of the NSFD Dept Fundraiser Bike Blessing, the Farmers and now your LOL at local beachgoers. Hmmmm, food whiner I found where that fishy smell is coming from. South winds today. LOL
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 5, 19 5:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
some of who live here happen to be interested in our wildlife and ecology - you might want to educate yourself before commenting.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 6, 19 10:12 AM
LOL! You may want to educate yourself as well before commenting. Bet those lil plovers cost a pretty penny !!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 7, 19 6:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 7, 19 10:18 AM
Grandma used to make a mean plover pot pie.
By Pacman (273), Southampton on Jun 5, 19 1:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
Piping plover tastes like chicken
By Non-Political (125), Hampton Bays on Jun 5, 19 5:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hmmmmmmm........seems to work out pretty good for the opposing homeowner in the news.....
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Jun 5, 19 6:49 PM
I've been threatened by Piping Plovers more than once... It's quite an unnerving experience... and then there are the killer rabbits!
By Just sitting on the taffrail (41), Southampton on Jun 5, 19 6:52 PM
Typical liberal thinking. A fetus isn't a human being but close the beach because of some bird eggs. It's gonna be interesting when the Russians crush us one day because we are too stupid to fight back
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 5, 19 7:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
Are you discussing the cortex?

That pesky seat of human consciousness that develops at 6 months?
By Mr. Z (11832), North Sea on Jun 5, 19 8:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Typical thickheadedness. The issue is personhood and viability. Until a cortex is fully formed, a fetus (more accurately, a zygote) is unable to live outside the womb. Hence, not viable--not a person, not a human being.
And how much of a zealot does one have to be to bring up abortion when the subject is the environmental ecosystem? Jaysus. And btw, how about keeping your counsel until you are able to bear a child. Women are the deciders. Full stop.
By June Bug (2678), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 5, 19 8:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By S.N.A.F.U. (6), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 6, 19 9:30 AM
Note; Comment was addressed to June Bug (fitting name...lol)
By S.N.A.F.U. (6), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 6, 19 9:43 AM
"closed to vehicular traffic IF they produce eggs" therein lies the solution
By bigfresh (4663), north sea on Jun 6, 19 6:05 AM
Did Kathleen Araskog get animatronic Plovers?
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jun 6, 19 6:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Lets see if She responds....
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 6, 19 6:34 AM
June bug will you absent all of 5th grade when they were teaching the birds and the bees?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 6, 19 5:11 PM
The headline's phrasing of "Plovers Threaten to.." is extremely weird when we're talking about an endangered native species. No, these birds aren't "threatening" anything.
By Hampton Bays (14), hampton bays on Jun 6, 19 9:28 PM
Should make for an interesting summer with the heliport an the parking lot at full capacity bc we all walked down onto the beach . Time to buy a lil beach cart with wheels to cart all my big umbrellas down. They dont like big umbrellas...they call the police. Homeowners cant get rid of us.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 7, 19 6:47 AM
What sticker is required to "park" at the heliport parking?
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 9:09 AM
park up and down meadow lane as we did years past
By Local247 (39), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 10:32 AM
Will be flying the American Flag also!!
By bigfresh (4663), north sea on Jun 7, 19 12:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
since the alleged nest is on the boundary of the Village and County beach one could assume that the county is looking at losing 100 meters of access also? That's a lot of campsites!
By bigfresh (4663), north sea on Jun 10, 19 6:07 AM
1 member liked this comment
County park lost 20 campsites from Picnic to the west.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 12, 19 2:18 PM
1 member liked this comment