The Trustees Announce Shorebird Protection and Summer Vehicle Access Updates for Martha’s Vineyard Beaches

Contact Information

Kristi Perry
Trustees Director of PR

Edgartown, MAJune 20, 2017 – As part of its nonprofit mission to protect scenic, cultural, and ecologically significant sites for public use and enjoyment, as well as the wildlife that call these places their home, The Trustees manages an extensive shorebird protection program along 26 miles of its 75 miles of publicly assessable coastline, 11 miles of which are located on Martha’s Vineyard. Since 1986 the Piping Plover has been listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Least Terns are state listed as a species of special concern. Both are protected under Massachusetts shorebird guidelines, which also mandate that The Trustees, among many on and off-island partners, participate in active shorebird protection and monitoring programs to help promote the survival of the species.

“This spring, we saw nesting Piping Plover and Tern pairs spread widely around our many miles of barrier beaches on the Island,” says Caitlin Borck, Trustees Ecology Assistant on Martha’s Vineyard. “Due to this season’s greater number of storms and higher than normal predation, many of the shorebirds have been re-nesting with more than half of the plover pairs either on their second or third nests. As a result, there are currently 17 pairs (slightly more than the 5-year, island average) scattered around Trustees beaches on Chappaquiddick and Martha’s Vineyard including Cape Poge, Leland Beach, Wasque, and Norton Point Beach.”

Over the past week The Trustees has announced several restrictions for Oversand Vehicle Permit (OSV) holders on Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and several miles of Norton Point Beach which the nonprofit conservation and preservation organization manages for Dukes County. The Trustees anticipates additional closures at Norton Point Beach as well as at Leland Beach over the coming weeks as shorebird chicks begin to hatch. Despite the OSV restrictions, foot access is still permitted on all Trustees beaches and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of parking which is available at most of its beach locations.

“We appreciate the public’s understanding and patience during this important survival time for this species,” adds Chris Kennedy, Island Superintendent. “We also understand the frustration that many of our permit holders may be feeling due to these limitations. We manage these beaches for people and for wildlife which can make vehicle access a challenge, especially during the busy shorebird and summer vacation season. As we have learned over the many years of shorebird protection, things can change quickly from one week to the next so we encourage beach visitors to check our website and social media pages regularly. “

In the meantime, The Trustees encourages visitors to enjoy its many island beaches and properties by foot, and to take advantage of the parking many beach sites offer. Wasque on Chappy has a new stairwell added last season with expanded parking to accommodate more cars, with the beach just a short walk from the lot. Long Point is also a family-friendly beach option with parking for visitors. The Trustees also owns and manages Menemsha Hills Reservation, Mytoi garden, and The Farm Institute at Katama Farm which offer recreational and summer activities and programs for island residents and visitors.

Beach Status

Due to the number of Piping Plover and Tern nests expected to begin hatching over the next several days on Norton Point Beach, approximately 2 of the 2.5 miles of accessible beach have been closed to vehicle access. The remaining .5 miles of open beach will have a 100-vehicle limit at any given time. Within the next week and a half, The Trustees anticipates it will likely close the remainder of Norton Point Beach to vehicle access due to the expected hatching of Piping Plover chicks. 
Beginning on or about July 11, The Trustees anticipates additional vehicle restrictions at Leland Beach on Chappy will be needed due to expected hatching activity there. Pedestrian access will remain open on all Trustees beaches during these vehicle closures.  Beach bicycles, dogs, and horses are prohibited from the closed shorebird areas and Trustees OSV tours will be on hold until further notice.

Shorebird Status

In 1986 the total population in Massachusetts was 140 breeding pairs. While the numbers have been increasing due to the success of many shorebird protection programs, as of 2016 the Massachusetts breeding population was 649 pairs, a 5.5% decrease over 687 pairs in 2015. The 5-year average for plover pairs on the Trustees beaches on Martha’s Vineyard is 16, one less than the current 17 pairs, and island-wide productivity has been slightly below the state average at one fledgling per pair.  
For more information on Trustees shorebird protection and monitoring programs, as well as updates and additional information on vehicle access, please visit
Founded by landscape architect Charles Eliot in 1891, The Trustees has, for more than 125 years, been a catalyst for important ideas, endeavors, and progress in Massachusetts. As a steward of distinctive and dynamic places of both historic and cultural value, The Trustees is the nation’s first preservation and conservation organization, and its landscapes and landmarks continue to inspire discussion, innovation, and action today as they did in the past. We are a nonprofit supported by members, friends and donors and our more than 116 sites are destinations for residents, members, and visitors alike, welcoming millions of guests annually.