Provincetown Life Information
Cape Cod Times | By ERIC WILLIAMS
No one knows where the plovers will go in 2007, but officials at the Cape Cod National Seashore are working on contingency plans to help avoid a total closure of the park’s off-road vehicle corridor in Provincetown and Truro, an event that made 2006 less than peachy for those who like to explore Cape beaches the four-wheeled way.
An ORV subcommittee of the Seashore’s advisory commission has drafted several recommendations for the upcoming season, many of them stemming from public comments and suggestions on the matter received at a Dec. 9 meeting and workshop. Those recommendations would be contingent on similar plover-related beach closures occurring during 2007. Among the recommendations:
- Open ORV access at High Head north and south before the normal July 1 and July 21 opening dates.
- Permit daytime ORV access to Coast Guard Beach in Truro before June 30.
- Permit ORV access to Herring Cove north before June 30.
- Consider permitting self-contained vehicles to park overnight at Race Point Beach and Head of the Meadow parking lots before June 30.
- Continue to make the Pilgrim Heights and the Province Lands Visitor Center parking lots available to self-contained vehicles (as was done during the 2006 ORV closure).
- As in 2006, waive day use beach entrance fees for ORV permit holders at Herring Cove, Race Point and Head of the Meadow beaches if a total ORV closure becomes necessary.
‘’The park is somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place,’’ said Edgar Francis III of Truro, who chaired the ORV subcommittee. ‘’In some ways, they are the victim of their own success.’’
That hard place - the park’s compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s piping plover recovery plan - has become a harder place in recent years, because more plovers are on the beach, requiring larger swaths of sand to be closed.
When Fish and Wildlife placed the Atlantic piping plover on the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife in 1986, some 550 piping plover pairs nested along the Atlantic coast from Maine to North Carolina. By 2005, the piping plover population had grown to more than 1,400 pairs. In 1985, Seashore personnel found 18 pairs of plovers, a number that had grown to more than 90 in 2002.
‘’I’m not preaching the end of the world here, but if we have another closure like 2006, local businesses are going to be affected,’’ said Richard Wood, owner of Nelson’s Bait and Tackle in Provincetown. ‘’My business suffered dramatically.’’ Wood said he would like the Seashore to consider opening other access points to the corridor to allow tourists and fishermen to enjoy the outer beach.
‘’Anything that opens up any part of the beach is a positive,’’ Wood said. ‘’But what they’re talking about is a very small percentage.’’
Park officials plan to review the recommendations this winter through an environmental assessment process that will include more opportunities for public input.
But, reminded Seashore superintendent George Price, ‘’these changes do not guarantee that a total ORV closure can be avoided in 2007.’’
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