Limited off-road vehicles area may reopen next week

 

As of Monday, 81 beach stickers had been returned for refunds at the Duxbury town hall, and while the current beach restrictions for vehicles will remain in place, there is a possibility that a very lim- ited area of the beach may be opened to vehicles by the end of the month.

Town Manager René Read announced that 73 non- residents and eight residents have turned in their over-sand beach vehicle permits for refunds. The total amount of money returned is $22,815. This includes $21,535 for non-residents stickers and $1,280 resident stickers.

The town is offering a one-time 100 percent refund on over-sand beach stickers purchased before June 3 in order to appease some beach goers who are upset about the temporary beach closures. The restrictions affect all vehicle access from the beach and limit pedestrian access in both the public and private areas of Duxbury Beach until July 15.

The closures are a result of a record number of piping plovers nesting in most areas of Duxbury Beach. Winter storms reshaped the beach to create perfect plover habitat. The state and federal government have classified this shorebird as a threatened species to help ensure its survival. Because of this, plovers cannot be disturbed during the nesting, hatching and fledging of their chicks. Closing the beach to cars and people is designed to help the chicks — which begin to run around within hours after hatching — grow until they can fly away from danger. This takes approximately a month.

The beach sticker refunds, which are being offered until June 28, must be obtained in person at the town hall. The beach stickers must be turned in and then the town will issue refund checks through the mail within 30 days. The town will not accept stickers in the mail. There is nothing forbidding a person who receives a refund from buying another beach sticker at a later date.

According to Read, some sticker buyers stopped payment on their checks and he said these people will be getting a letter from the town regarding this action.

The status of the plovers and their nests has not changed much in the past week. According to a report from Harbormaster’s Endangered Species Officer Mike Pforr, there are 18 pairs of nesting plovers and 30 unfledged plover chicks. Five pairs of birds are either waiting for their eggs to hatch or are expected to re-nest.

Based on this plover activity and their current locations, Pforr stated that there would not be any changes in the original restrictions imposed on Friday, June 7.

However, this situation might change very soon — maybe as early as next week.

“Looking into the future, there are two broods of plovers due to fledge within the next seven to eight days at the ear- liest or 13-15 days at the latest, which may allow curtailing of restrictions imposed at the sec- ond crossover and may open a small portion of the second crossover to the south of the ramp,” stated Pforr a memo to the town manager on Monday.

If this limited area is opened, it could hold approximately 100 off-road vehicles, which would equal 50 resident and 50 non-resident vehicles, according to Pforr. However, the area would be subject to daily restrictions after the vehicle limit is reached, he added.

“This area could be opened based on current unfledged broods locations to the north and south of this area and could change on a daily basis in regards to ORV access and/or ORV limits, depending on brood locations and other factors like weather and tidal conditions,” Pforr stated. “The area opened could run south to approximately the southern edge of High Pines (at the northern edge of the sacrificial dune) as there are three broods to the south between High Pines and the third crossover.”

This possible opening might happen as early as Tuesday, June 25 or as late as July 2. “This is not set in stone and could change at a moment’s notice,” cautioned Read.

Read’s beach update is available on the town’s Web site.