The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is restricting access to the East Beach/Ninigret Conservation Area Sand Trail to pedestrian traffic only until August. Prohibiting vehicles on the trail is meant to protect nesting sites of the piping plover, a small shorebird that is listed as threatened on both federal and state endangered species lists.
Hurricane Sandy changed the face of the Rhode Island coastline and beaches for the public as well as for piping plovers. On East Beach there are many over-wash areas that provide access for young birds, and piping plover chicks have been feeding and taking refuge along the sand trail. US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff and volunteers monitor the plover nests and broods on a daily basis.
The sand trail will be reopened and the protective roping will be removed once the young piping plover chicks are able to fly.
“With the changes in beach habitat and populations, we especially need the help of beach goers to protect piping plovers and respect sand trail closures,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “We are confident that the ongoing monitoring will enable us to reopen the sand trail to vehicles as soon as possible.”
The temporary closure will prohibit all vehicles from accessing areas beyond the main parking area.
On the beach itself, nesting areas have been roped off so the birds will not be disturbed, but the beach itself is open for fishing, swimming and other activities.