Piping Plovers Shut Down Section of Popular Harwich Beach

Closed section of Red River Beach in Harwich

HARWICH – Visitors to Red River Beach in Harwich will have less space to park, play and lounge for the rest of the month.

Sections of the beach and about a third of the parking lot have been closed off after four piping plover chicks hatched earlier this month.

The plovers are a state and federally protected species and require management efforts as they are threatened and close to becoming endangered.

Under regulations the entire parking lot would have needed to be closed due to a 1000 meter protection zone around the nest, but officials were able to narrow the closure.

“In consultation with Mass Audubon as well as with the state we were able to decrease that to about 400 meters which keeps the majority of the parking area and the beach open,” said Amy Usowski, the town’s conservation administrator.

Concrete barriers have been placed to close off a section of the east end of the parking lot.

Beachgoers are also asked to stay outside of the fenced off area from the dune to the high water line.

“People can still walk between the fencing and mean high water all the way to the east end. There is no prohibition of against that,” Usowski said. “And they can use the rest of the two-thirds of the beach before the barriers.”

The town is also required to prohibit the plovers from getting into the parking lot. A foot-high silt fence has been installed due to the openings in the wall that allow beach access.

“It’s enough so the chicks can’t get over, but it’s enough so that people can still step over,” Usowski said.

Usowski said there has already been some vandalism to the fencing that has been placed to mark areas not to be accessed.

“We have had people who have cut the twine on the fencing and removed the silt fence in front of the parking areas,” she said.

The plover chicks are expected to fledge, or fly, around July 4.

“It takes them 30 days to fledge and at that time all the barriers can be removed,” Usowski said.

The beach only has one plover nest and Usowksi said they should not be an issue for the majority of the summer.

“With any hope, if the plovers kind of stay towards the eastern most part of the east end, we may be able to decrease the amount of restriction that we have there,” she said.

Further shrinking of the restricted areas would only occur once officials know where the birds are going.

Piping plovers previously prompted the closure of the oversand trails south of the public parking lot at Nauset Beach in Orleans

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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