June 24, 2014
Least tern nest closes oceanfront in north Avon
By IRENE NOLAN
National Park Service discovered a least tern nest on Sunday that has
closed the ocean beach in front of nine houses on Pamlico Court on the
very north end of Avon.
The Park Service established a
colonial waterbird pre-nesting area north of Avon in the spring, but
this pair of birds nested just south of the pre-nesting area.
buffer distance for a least tern nest is 100 meters, which is about 328
feet or a little longer than a football field. Therefore, the resource
closure extends in front of about nine oceanfront houses on Pamlico
Court in northern Avon.
This is the first time that anyone
involved in the beach access issue can remember that a resource closure
for nesting birds has closed the beach in front of houses in a village.
Banks Group Superintendent Barclay Trimble said yesterday that he had
already fielded phone calls from Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare
County Board of Commissioners, and at least one rental manager.
said the Park Service has closed the ocean beach just up to the toe of
the dune, so that the occupants of the cut-off houses can cross over
the dune and then head south along a narrow path between the dune and
the closure to gain access to the open beach just south of Pamlico
"It's not an easy walk," said Beth Midgett, rental
manager for Midgett Realty, who visited the area yesterday. The company
handles two houses affected by the closure. Both are occupied
she said, is on the southern end of the closure and is not as much of a
problem as the other one, which is the very first house in northern
Avon. That house, she said, is occupied by a family with a
grandmother who has mobility issues and cannot manage the walk in the
deep sand behind the dune to the ocean beach that is open.
are not at all happy," Midgett said, noting that they had been planning
all year for this vacation and chose the oceanfront house for the
According to park biologist Eric Frey, the average
incubation time for a nest is 21 days and chicks usually fledge in 19
to 20 days.
The closure for unfledged chicks is 200 meters, which could mean more oceanfront closures in a few weeks for northern Avon.
if the nest is not successful, the closure will remain in place for two
more weeks to see if the pair of bird will try again with another one.
If the nests hatches, Trimble said, "We'll just have to see where the chicks go after that."
At any rate, the oceanfront closures won't end anytime soon and could extend into August.
least tern is not a federally protected species under the Endangered
Species Act. It is listed by the state of North Carolina as a
"species of special concern."
The state said when the Park
Service was formulating its new off-road vehicle plan that it did not
intend that the protections for these birds be as extensive as was
being proposed. The Park Service said it had an obligation to protect
the species of special concern.
Jan Harvard and her husband own a home on Pamlico Court and split their time between Rocky Mount and Avon.
bothers me that they (the Park Service) just go on and on with these
closures," she said yesterday. "It seems like they're trying to ruin
the economy of Hatteras Island.
Certainly, Beth Midgett noted,
this oceanfront closure will have economic consequences for the owners
of the houses that are rentals and for the companies that handle them.
morning, Midgett Realty was calling the folks who have the houses
rented in the coming weeks to inform them of the situation. And,
at the height of the rental season, they're aren't many other rentals
to which they could be moved.
"It was just a stunner for them," she said.
then made another point about the contentious issues that surround the
park's ORV rule and final plan and the opposition to it by many who
think there should be more reasonable access for all.
"This has never really been about beach driving," she said. "It's about access, and it's just out of balance."