At Wednesday's city council meeting the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation will be asking the council to enter a cooperative agreement designed to protect shore bird habitat on the Necanicum Spit.  City Administrator Chad Sweet invites the public to attend. To outline the effort the state issued the following letter to the city:

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is requesting from City of Gearhart support in the protection of the Shorebird Conservation Area located at Necanicum Spit.  A part of OPRD's effort to aid the recovery of the threatened Western snowy plover and stewardship of important shorebird habitat, we are requesting support through coordinating access and providing interpretive information that will benefit the community as well as the important shorebird populations.

OPRD owns and manages Gearhart Ocean State Recreation Area (SRA) which includes parts of Necanicum Spit. The OPRD property is located north of the current mouth of the Necanicum River in the city of Gearhart and includes beach from the southeast end of the Necanicum Spit to north along the beach. Necanicum Spit is used by the public for beach recreation, primarily walking, wildlife viewing, and dog walking. There are no OPRD-managed beach access points to the spit, although numerous unofficial trails exist from the adjacent residential neighborhood to the beach. Visitors typically access the spit by three routes: (1) walking along the beach from the 10th Street beach access point, which provides vehicular access to the north beaches and pedestrian access south to the Necanicum Spit; (2) walking along the beach from the Pacific Way beach access point; and (3) crossing the City of Gearhart-owned uplands from Wellington Avenue.

The spit is adjacent to and within the Necanicum Estuary which has been labeled an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. During migration, sandpipers, semi-palmated plovers, whimbrels and long-billed curlews forage and rest on the flats of the estuary, gathering energy to make the trip to the Arctic or South America. In addition, Caspian terns and western snowy plover, a federal and state threatened species, could potentially use the spit for breeding.

As part of OPRD's stewardship responsibilities for ocean shores, and required implementation of the Habitat Conservation Plan for Western Snowy Plover (HCP) to aid in their recovery, segments of the spit will be designated as a shorebird conservation area (Figure 2). OPRD will provide public outreach and education on the needs of migrating and nesting shorebirds, and request beach visitors to voluntarily avoid the dry sandy portions of the conservation area to critical to potential shorebirds and seabirds nesting. Currently, dogs should be leashed on the spit, which coincides with the western snowy plover management area (SPMA) designated by the HCP.  If shorebirds begin nesting in the SPMA, dogs and kites will need to remain on the expanse of beach north of the SPMA and pedestrians will be directed to the wet sand during the breeding season (Figure 2). These recreation restrictions are designed to reduce human-related disturbance to nesting birds while still allowing recreation on the spit.

OPRD is requesting a cooperative agreement with the City of Gearhart to enhance their upland property for recreation and wildlife interpretation. We propose two alternatives, with the goals of improving the Necanicum Estuary for shorebirds, providing a pleasant access to the beach outside of conservation area during the critical period, and increasing public enjoyment of wildlife through viewing opportunities and interpretation. OPRD is also open to other alternatives not outlined here.

Alternative 1

Install an interpretive trail along the foredune adjacent to Gearhart Ocean SRA on the west edge of the City of Gearhart's property (Figure 3). This trail would connect the small public access area at Wellington Avenue with the unrestricted section of beach north of the shorebird conservation area.

Alternative 2

Improve the existing fire road to also serve as an interpretive trail (Figure 3). This location is farther from the beach which may provide fewer ocean views, but would traverse through upland habitats which could provide a more varied recreation experience. It would also assist in maintaining access to the southern portion of the City's property for fire-fighting purposes.


OPRD would like to construct and install the following signs on City of Gearhart property:

-          Interpretive kiosk where the primary trail veers from the user-created trails that angle to the SPMA. The kiosk would display important beach information, interpretive information on shorebirds and western snowy plover, and a map of the area.

-          An interpretive sign at each public access point (Pacific Way, Wellington, and Tenth Ave) with information on recreation, dog friendly beaches, and shorebird conservation.

-          Seasonal signs at the vegetation line along the foredune alerting visitors to the shorebird conservation area, requesting compliance with conservation goals.

Proposed Schedule

2013: Placement of temporary signs requesting voluntary compliance; begin re-alignment of trails

2014:  Placement of permanent signs; complete trail re-alignment; require avoidance of dry sand area during nesting season.

To assure the City of our commitment, we propose entering into a cooperative agreement that defines our role and responsibilities.

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