Nauset Beach Opens to ORVs Through Groundbreaking Plan

450910609ORLEANS – Nauset Beach reopened to off-road vehicles on Sunday through a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind habitat conservation plan on the East Coast.

The plan creates a way for vehicles to get escorted past piping plover nests.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Orleans Selectmen John Hodgson said. “It was two years in the making to get this HCP put together and it’s a great first step to be able to have the beaches open early.”

Nauset Beach has seen closures for off-road vehicles for a number of years during the key summer weeks after the shorebirds hatch and the beach would remain off limits until the plovers would fledge.

“We’ve had closures that have lasted the entire summer the last couple of years,” Hodgson said. “So to be back open in July is fabulous.”

The new plan includes pedestrian escorts looking for plovers as the vehicle drives by the protected zone. Access is limited to just four hours each day.

Although Hodgson said it is great to have the beach open to ORV usage, running pedestrian escorts was not the ideal situation.

“We came very close to not having to do so because of a lot of the protective measures that we put in place this year to protect the birds,” he said. “It’s a little awkward to run the escort… I hope at some point we can actually alleviate that, but for now it is people back out on the beach and that’s what’s important.”

Hodgson said full access to the beach will be granted after the last few chicks fledge but he said he had no idea on a possible timetable.

Hodgson said the habitat conservation plan needs to be modified moving forward.

“It was far too difficult to put it in place to begin with,” he said. “At this point, we are reaching out to state and federal officials to get some relief.”

Hodgson said he spoke with Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito last week about getting some help from the state.

“We need help. We need muscle from the state to push back the federal government whether it’s the seals, the plovers or the next round of birds,” he said. “Because the feds just keep studying and studying and studying and naming more endangered species and that equals closed beaches.”

“This is our community,” Hodgson said. “We are a beach, tourist community and when we start losing access to the beaches and the waterways, it’s a problem.”

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