Temporary Public Use Closures at Assateague Island National Seashore

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Date: June 23, 2010
Contact: Carl Zimmerman, 410-629-6071

Superintendent Trish Kicklighter today announced that two areas of Assateague Island National Seashore will be temporarily closed to public use in order to protect breeding Piping Plovers. The closed areas include the southern portion of the public Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) route south of kilometer marker (KM) 23.5, and a section of ocean beach and island interior north of Assateague State Park. The closures will begin on or around June 23rd and remain in effect for up to four weeks.

The OSV route closure will limit use of the ocean beach south of KM 23.5 to pedestrians only, walking along the water’s edge. All vehicle use south of KM 23.5 will be temporarily prohibited. The closure north of Assateague State Park includes both the ocean beach, island interior and bay side beach for a distance of approximately one mile. All public use within this area will be prohibited. The ocean beaches north of the closure will remain open and accessible from the boat landing area on the Island’s northern tip.

The area closures are necessary to protect Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), small migratory shorebirds that nest on open, sandy beaches and raise their chicks along the ocean, bay and interior sand flats where they feed on insects and other invertebrates. On Assateague, the Piping Plover breeding season generally runs from April through mid-August. Plovers are easily disturbed by humans and will leave their nests or feeding areas if approached.

Piping Plover are listed as “threatened with extinction” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due in part to the loss of natural breeding habitat elsewhere along its East Coast range. Assateague Island is the only nesting site in Maryland and one of the densest breeding areas in the Mid-Atlantic region, making this population critical for long-term survival of the species.
The National Park Service works hard to maintain a balance between public use and resource protection. Sometimes that coexistence is difficult to achieve, particularly during the busy summer months. Superintendent Kicklighter acknowledges that actions to safeguard sensitive species like the Piping Plover may affect some aspects of public use, but is confident that with a little patience and flexibility visitors to Assateague Island will always have a rewarding experience.

Last updated: April 15, 2018

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