TTOR reopens Edgartown side of Norton Point Beach

A satellite view of Norton Point Beach shows the breach and a maze of sandbars. — Photo courtesy of Google maps

The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) announced Saturday that the Edgartown side of Norton Point Beach is open to off-road vehicle access.

The Trustees closed the beach in June to protect nesting piping plovers and least terns. Both species are state and federally protected shorebirds.

“The piping plover chicks which had been using the eastern end of the beach for feeding have successfully fledged and under state shorebird guidelines we are able to allow vehicle access once more to this beach,” Chris Kennedy, TTOR superintendent, wrote in an email to The Times. “The Trustees wishes to thank its visitors, members, and the community for their patience while these rare shorebirds successfully raised their young.”

In fact, not many young survived. Four of seven piping plover nests were the targets of skunks, crows or gulls and only 2 plover chicks from one nest fledged, or survived to the point where they could fly.

Only two of eight American oystercatcher nest survived and only two chicks.As for terns, Mr. Kennedy said, “No successful nests were found. In late June, a Peregrine falcon decided that the large tern colony was a good place to feed and the falcon effectively chased all nesting terns to other nesting locations on the Vineyard, Buzzards Bay and Nantucket.”

In April 2007, a one-two punch of storm-driven ocean waves and powerful spring tides knocked open a cut in Norton Point Beach, the two-mile long barrier beach that had linked Katama to Chappaquiddick. The result was two long narrow spits of sand stretching east and west toward one another.

TTOR manages the beach under the terms of a three-year agreement with the county that expires in 2012.

The beach is popular with fishermen, picnickers and shellfishermen. Vehicle access is by permit.

“The Trustees wishes to remind visitors that swimming in the breach on either the Chappaquiddick or Edgartown side is strictly prohibited,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We ask that you follow the ranger’s warnings and stay safe by observing the no-swimming areas adjacent to the breach.”

On July 3, Michael Romm, 34, of Watertown died after he was pulled from the water on the ocean side of the the Norton Point breach. In the wake of the accident, The Trustees closed the Chappy side of Norton Point Beach to swimming.

In an additional update on off-road vehicle use, Mr. Kennedy said piping plover chicks remain on Leland Beach on the east side of Chappaquiddick and at the elbow between Cape Poge Light and the gut. Vehicle restrictions remain in place for those locations.