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Birds benefit from barrier beach restoration at Long Beach West
Photo Credit: William Majoros
"It's really great to see wildlife and people win," said Deborah Rocque, Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast Region.
The win took place at Long Beach West, a 35-acre (14-hectare) section of the western end of Long Beach on the Stratford, Conn., shoreline. Like most coastal habitat in southern New England, Long Beach West was developed. The town leased the cottages at the site until the bridge connecting the beach to the mainland burnt down in 1996. After that, the buildings were abandoned and extensively vandalized.
People had pretty much deserted the once bustling summer community, but the remnants of development on one of Connecticut's longest stretches of barrier beach prevented it from being ideal for its other residents—migratory birds and other wildlife. Barrier beach habitats like that at Long Beach West are critically important to many species protected under the Endangered Species Act and state laws.
Photo Credit: Patrick Comins
In particular, this area along the coast is the most essential nesting habitat remaining in Connecticut for the federally threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus). The least tern (Sternula antillarum), protected by the state as a threatened species, and the American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), considered a species of concern in the state, also use Long Beach West as nesting habitat. The beach also provides important habitat for the common clapper rail (Rallus longirostris), black duck (Anas rubripes), and other migratory birds, while supporting five species of state-listed rare plants and nesting diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin).
Thirteen years after the destructive fire took the bridge to Long Beach West, the story takes a happy turn.
The Service, through the Southern New England-New York Bight Coastal Program, received $1 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to restore this important beach habitat. With support from many partners, the restoration effort removed the remaining 37 cottages, 27 outbuildings, four docks and associated debris that had been abandoned. The project received the 2011 Environmental Achievement Award from the Department of the Interior.
Photo Credit: Jerry and Marcy Monkman, EcoPhotography
"The on-the-ground restoration of this site represents two years of work with a large variety of partners to bring this project to fruition," said Sharon Marino, who was head of that coastal program office at the time. "This project will enhance the site for people and wildlife and is an excellent example of what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding was meant to be used for, providing jobs and investing in the improvement of local communities."
In the end, the project truly was a win for people and for wildlife.
"It is so exciting to see the culmination of the Long Beach West restoration and that the 35-acre section of barrier beach can now begin returning to its original natural beauty," said Rosa L. DeLauro, the U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 3rd congressional district. "This area will be a blessing for the families of Stratford and a place for the whole community to enjoy."
Restoration of the site resulted in natural habitat for protected wildlife and plants, as well as passive recreational uses including fishing, hiking, wildlife observations and continued beach access.
Deb Reynolds, a public affairs specialist in the Service's Northeast Regional Office in Hadley Mass., can be reached at email@example.com or 413-253-8674.
View a short video detailing the Long Beach West Cottage Removal and Habitat Restoration project.
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