By Tuesday of next week all of Chappaquiddick over sand vehicle (OSV) trails should be reopened, Chris Kennedy, The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) Martha’s Vineyard superintendent told The Times on Tuesday.
“By this Friday, all of Leland Beach will be open; the Gut should be open by early next week,” he said. “My big concern is drivers are going to be flying in the open areas on Leland Beach. I’d hate to have one of them get run over. The chicks are still very vulnerable.”
Mr. Kennedy encourages OSV drivers to check the TTOR Facebook page, which is updated frequently, to confirm trail access.
According to Massachusetts state law, there can be no vehicle activity within 100 yards of the closest piping plover nest or chick. Plovers don’t nest close to one another, so they can take up a lot of beach. In his 30 years on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Kennedy said, he’s never had to close down so much of Chappy to OSV traffic. “It’s been a tough year,” he said. “Normally we’ve been able to keep some small areas open, but this year all of Norton Point was closed from July 1 to July 24. Virtually all of Leland was closed, all of Cape Poge was closed for upwards of five weeks; that’s really unusual.”
The inconvenience to OSV permit holders also hit the TTOR bottom line.
“We haven’t been able to run lighthouse tours, and Norton Point permit sales went to zero after July 3,” he said. “We took probably a 50 percent revenue cut for Norton Point compared with last year.”
Mr. Kennedy said there is an ongoing attempt to loosen the state and federal plover protection restrictions on OSV traffic. The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) allows the state to issue an “incidental take” permit, which says if certain rules are followed, beach managers will not be prosecuted for a limited number of run-over plovers. “With that plan, we could open up critical areas from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon,” he said. “The permitholder would have to take a test to show they can recognize shorebirds. We’re looking at $40,000 in additional expense to cover additional staff, vehicles, and radios.” Mr. Kennedy said permit prices would have to be raised from $200 to $220 to cover the HCP cost.
”We’re reluctant to do it, but if there had been one in place this year, it would have given access to an additional mile of Cape Poge, so it’s worth considering,” he said.
The town of Orleans obtained an incidental take permit in 2015, via the HCP process.
Mr. Kennedy said there will be a public forum on the shorebird situation on Sept. 13, from 1 to 3 pm at Edgartown Town Hall.
“It’ll be a good opportunity to get feedback from our users to see if they’re interested in the HCP,” he said.