Nauset Beach from the parking lot south will be closed to vehicles beginning Friday, May 31 at noon due to unfledged piping plover chicks in the vicinity of the ORV corridor.
The town's natural resources staff announced the closure Wednesday afternoon, saying they will continue to monitor the situation daily and open the trails as soon as possible under a state permit that allows vehicle access with escorts once the chicks fledge.
Also on Wednesday, Chatham's natural resource department announced that anti-perching devices on symbolic fencing and signage around plover nests had been vandalized, together with the proximity of nesting shorebirds leading to the immediate closure of trail 7. The front beach between trails 6 and 8 were closed late last week due to what town officials termed "serious" erosion as well as nesting shorebirds.
According to Chatham's announcement, the vandalism could increase predator activity; if nests are destroyed, plovers could re-nest thereby increasing the length of beach closures to ORVs.
Erosion along the outer shoreline varies, with dune scarps three to four feet high in some places and flat beach in others, said Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson. In some spots, “there's almost no beach, it's practically back to the dune line,” he said. The radical changes in topography made it necessary to close the entire front beach between trails 6 and 8.
“We've already seen some changes since we first closed it,” he said Tuesday. Storms could make it worse, but calm weather could built up the beach. “There's just no way to predict” how long the conditions will restriction access, once it is restored from Nauset Beach.
Duncanson said he receives almost daily reports on beach conditions from Assistant Conservation Agent Paul Wightman, who also monitors nesting piping plovers on the barrier beach.