Yet another broadside has been fired in the war on dogs on Scarborough’s beaches. This time, a couple weeks after a portion of Higgins Beach was closed to both dogs and people, a large chunk of what many people consider to be Ferry Beach has been closed to dogs.
The closure of the additional beach area to dogs – leashed or not – is the doing of the Prouts Neck Country Club (“PNCC”). As you will recall, Western Beach, which is contiguous to Ferry Beach, is owned by the good folks of PNCC. They put the “No Dogs All Summer” sign up at Western Beach last year. The policy and sign were probably part of the deal with US Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) to get the sand from the harbor dredge deposited on the beach in a manner that would protect their golf course from losing a couple of holes to Old Man Tide.
Late last week, new signs went up in the middle of what most folks consider to be Ferry Beach. It turns out that PNCC’s beachfront property is more extensive than what many of us blithely assumed. A review of the Town’s tax maps shows that PNCC owns the beach (at least to the high water mark) for 750’ or so northeast of Ferry Rock.
So PNCC was inspired this year to expand their “no dogs” area by another 750’ of beach. Which, coincidentally, is pretty close to the “protected area” that the Ad Hoc Animal Control Advisory Committee had defined on what we all thought was Ferry Beach. So apparently the AHACAC was trying to establish regulations for land the Town didn’t even control. In any event, the relentless crusade to transform Scarborough beaches into sanctuary beaches rolls on. Higgins and Ferry have now been partially sanctuarized… can Pine Point be far behind?
As I pointed out a few weeks back in “Dredging Up the Dirt,” there will undoubtedly be large incremental costs involved with stopping the dredge project as of March 31 and then restarting it after the conclusion of piping plover season (April 1 through September 15, according to USFWS). Costs which could have been avoided if the dredge completion deadline had been extended a few weeks into plover season.
At the time, I wondered aloud what the size of the taxpayers’ tab would be for preserving the option of plover nesting on Western Beach by stopping and restarting the dredge project. (Remember, none of the “little guys” honored Western Beach with their presence for the last two seasons.) Surely there is a cost at which even the most ardent bird advocate would say “Oh my, that’s too much to spend just on the possibility that a plover would nest here.”
Silly me! There is no such dollar limit! And that, gentle readers, is the nub of this whole problem – the Endangered Species Act fails to provide any commonsense balance in the efforts to preserve and promote threatened species. The only time a USFWS action gets overridden is when it is so egregious that public outcry gets a US Senator or Representative to intervene. (See the recent Camp Ellis jetty experience, for example.) So perhaps if we had a Town Council that actually represented the citizens of the Town, Washington officials could have been persuaded to call the USFWS dogs off (to use a poor choice of words). Oh, well.
In our current situation at Western Beach, I understand that the US Army Corps of Engineers, who are conducting the dredge project, have not even calculated the additional costs associated with the dredge stop/restart. So clearly cost could not have been one of the elements weighed in the decision to stop the project as of March 31. All that mattered was the unlikely possibility that a plover might arrive. And for this possibility, no cost was too great.
[A footnote: As of this writing on April 21, I do not believe a piping plover has been sighted on Western Beach.]
Western Beach “Nourishment” Update
After NALCO, the dredge contractor, was ushered out of town in early April, a rather unbeachlike pile of sand was left on Western Beach. Curiously, or perhaps not so, the dredged sand had been deposited right at the spot on the beach where tidal erosion has historically most affected the golf course. In any event, the pile of dredged sand sure didn’t look like attractive plover habitat.
Today, April 21, 2014, Gorham Sand & Gravel was hard at work leveling the sand pile into a more gently sloped form. Let us hope that the resulting landscape receives the Good Scratchkeeping Seal of Approval(1).
A final note about “beach nourishment” in general. That terminology has always bugged me. (And I will readily admit to being easily bugged.) It just sounds so Disney-esque. Like a platoon of pixies will be flitting in and dispensing little bursts of magic, vitamin-fortified sand. When, in fact, beach nourishment consists of huge, diesel-powered machinery messing with tons of sand and in the process wreaking havoc with the “natural” beach ecosystem. It’s really not that pretty a sight.
(1) This was a feeble attempt at plover humor. A ‘scratch” is what a piping plover’s nest – such as it is – is known as. I know, I know; when you have to explain a joke, it ain’t that funny. But I couldn’t help myself. Sorry.
I can’t say this often enough – thanks to all of you who read, comment on, follow and share this blog! And thanks also for the many kind words of encouragement. It is heartening to know that so many people share the concern for continuing fair and reasonable access to Scarborough’s beautiful beaches. Thank you!