Smith’s Point on the west end of the island has been reopened to beach driving by the town.
The access point at the end of Massachusetts Avenue had been closed for the better part of two years due to erosion and the presence of protected shorebirds, according to Natural Resources Department Director Jeff Carlson.
Vincent Murphy, the town’s Coastal Resilience Coordinator, explained further: “Late summer and fall 2020 were not kind to the area and much of the width of the beach was lost to erosion, and we had waves washing against the base of a newly carved dune bluff close to the access point. Over the winter of 2020 and into 2021 the access point was lost and there was at times a sheer drop of 4 to 7 feet down to wet sand. Over the winter it went from unsafe due to erosion to inaccessible due to erosion.
“In the spring of 2021 between some accretion and the slumping of some banks and dunes, the area became drivable again for about 2 to 3 weeks, though there were few people around to enjoy it. On May 18 we had to put the annual closure in place to protect the breeding birds such as piping plovers and least terns. We had good productivity from the plovers, and also had the largest Least Tern colony ever counted on Smith’s Point with 537 nests counted during the census. With reduced erosion concerns and the birds fledging finished in the early part of August, we were able to open the area to beach driving on Friday August 13.”