Parks Board in early stages of drafting beach management plan

May 12, 2018

A management plan for marine and environmental protection at Round Hill Beach is in the works after a complaint brought an important maintenance activity to a halt.

Parks Director Tim Lancaster met with Jonathan Regosin from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on May 7 to discuss efforts to create the plan, which would, among other things, set guidelines for the use of machines to rake Round Hill Beach and outline requirements for piping plover protection.

In March, the Parks Board announced beach raking at Round Hill Beach would be suspended following an anonymous complaint filed to the state Department of Environmental Protection, alleging the department’s use of a beach raking machine violated state environmental protection regulations.

A notice of intent with the Department of Environmental Protection must be filed to continue using the beach rake. From there, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife would give its input about what should be in the management plan.

The plan would include requirements for protecting piping plovers, shorebirds which nest on sandy beaches, although Lancaster said he was told at the meeting no birds lived on the beach last year but information on a five-year history is being looked into.

“Our concern is how far do we have to go when these birds aren’t even nesting on our property?” Lancaster said.

Lancaster said the proposed language is too restrictive, but he is working with officials to find a middle ground and to determine if piping plovers were living on the beach in the past five years. Protection requirements include fencing around nesting areas, which is against the law to cross.

“We don’t want a lot of grey area in the plan,” Lancaster said. “It’s left open there that while no nesting occurs on Round Hill Beach now, some day there may be nesting, so some day there may be a need to fencing and more restrictions, Well, there’s no history of that, so we can’t agree to that because we can’t agree to something that could have a vast impact on the residents of the town in a year, five years or maybe never.”

Regosin noted dogs on the beach is the biggest threat to birds. Although dogs are prohibited on town beaches, Lancaster said residents who live nearby bring their dogs before it opens. He said the board will look into addressing the issue.

In the meantime, lifeguards are raking the beach by hand and removing any hazardous materials before it opens. Lancaster said so far the news of cleaning procedure changes has gone over well with residents who understand the situation.

“The ones that have talked to me fully support the Parks Board and making sure the number one priority is the beach is preserved at all cost and that the beach remains open for use by our residents,” Lancaster said.