First came a ban on booze. Now, the entire series of summer beach concerts at Sandy Hook has been cancelled to protect the piping plovers. And no, that’s not the name of a band. An adult piping plover. (Photos by John T. Ward, top, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology, above. Click to enlarge.)
The National Park Service and the Sandy Hook Foundation jointly announced the cancellation of this year’s summer concert series Thursday morning, citing a need to protect the nesting areas of the threatened and federally-protected shorebirds.
With only 3,000 or so nesting pairs along the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to New Jersey, piping plovers are “a species on the brink,” the organizations said.
This year, the birds have built more than 20 nests in the location used for the concerts, according to the foundation, which supports the Gateway National Recreation Area. Over the past 10 years, Sandy Hook has supported 40 to 50 percent of the birds nesting in New Jersey, with 59 off the 145 chicks that fledged in the state coming from Sandy Hook nests in 2018, it said.
According to a press release from Gateway National Recreation Area, “noise disturbs piping plovers,” and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service “mandates that no activity such as concerts take place within 1000 meters of the nest. In order to fulfill the park’s legal obligations and give the birds the greatest chance possible at nesting success, this year’s concert series has been cancelled.”
“We want these special birds to thrive,” said Gateway Superintendent Jen Nersesian. “The park did try to find an alternative location, but could not identify anything that meets the Foundation’s needs or the spirit of what this program has become. We are disappointed right alongside our visitors, but appreciate everyone’s support in helping to save a species on the brink.”
The Wednesday-night concert series typically draws hundreds of music lovers who flock to the sand for unbeatable sunsets and dancing to the likes of Brian Kirk and the Jirks, Tim McCloone and the Shirleys and the Pat Guadagno Band.
In April, the park service banned booze, citing 328 alcohol-related incidents between 2016 and 2018. Until then, Sandy Hook was the last public beach in New Jersey where alcohol consumption was still allowed.