Landowners protect the beach and the birds of Sandy Point Island
Credit: John Ackley
Binti Ackley, like many of her fellow beachgoers and landowners, beams with pride when she talks about protecting the well-loved Sandy Point Island.
"Sandy Point Island is my backyard, just a short paddle offshore," Ackley says. "During the 36 years I have lived here, I have explored and observed the ever-changing island and its residents, including the threatened piping plover."
Locals consider this barrier island, nestled between Rhode Island and Connecticut in Little Narragansett Bay, to be a prime boating destination and picnic spot. But it's also a nesting hotspot that's favored by some of our fine feathered friends—shorebirds including American oystercatchers, threatened piping plovers, and endangered roseate and least terns.
These birds needed help protecting their nests and chicks, so in 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Avalonia Land Conservancy, and residents teamed up to find a balance between recreational use and wildlife conservation.
"Changing public consciousness is hard, but people already love this place," says Anne Roberts-Pierson, past president of Avalonia, which has owned the island since 1982. "We're just asking them to tweak their behavior…They see their beach usage has not been impinged, and we're getting good bird reproduction."
The solution mingled site protection, through roping off nesting grounds and adding nesting boxes, with public education and support, through signs, meetings and information distribution. The result has been three successful nesting seasons and an enjoyable summer for both the beachgoers and the birds.
Voices from Sandy Point Island
Binti Ackley, Stonington Boro resident
Anne Nalwalk, former president of Avalonia Land Conservancy
Ryan Kleinert, biological science technician with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service