Northeast Coastal Areas Study
Significant Coastal Habitats
Site 30 (RI)
I. SITE AREA: Maschaug Pond and Beach
II. LOCATION: Maschaug Pond is located in the southwestern corner of Rhode Island along the shore of Block Island Sound east of Watch Hill in Westerly, Rhode Island, and south of Ocean View Highway.
STATE: Rhode Island
USGS 7.5 MIN QUAD: Watch Hill, RI-Conn 41041-37
USGS 30x60 MIN QUAD: Block Island 41071-A1
III. BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION: The boundary for this area is delineated on the accompanying map and includes Maschaug Pond and adjacent barrier beach. The length of this area is approximately 0.5 miles (1 km) long and 0.25 miles (0.4 km) wide. Total area is about 50 acres (80 ha).
IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTED STATUS: The area is privately owned, mostly by the Misquamicut Country Club.
V. GENERAL HABITAT DESCRIPTION: Maschaug Pond is a freshwater coastal pond with no permanent breachway connection to Block Island Sound. Other habitats include sand beach and vegetated dunes.
VI. SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF AREA: This beach has been considered to be one of the best nesting sites for the U.S. Threatened piping plover (Charadrius melodus) in Rhode Island, and also a significant breeding area for the least tern (Sterna antillarum), although human-related disturbances in recent years are adversely affecting their suitability and breeding success. The pond provides important wetland habitat for many species of coastal fish and wildlife. Many bird species use this area, including osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and waterfowl.
VII. THREATS: Recreational overuse of the beach area by four-wheel drive vehicles has resulted in disturbance to colonial beach-nesting piping plovers and terns and abandonment of nest sites in this area. Although this area was formerly closed to four-wheel drive vehicles, this restriction was recently lifted. Potential development of adjacent uplands may also increase disturbance to birds in this area.
VIII. CONSERVATION CONSIDERATIONS: Protection of this area as an important piping plover and least tern nesting area is critical, and efforts should be made to use all available means to exclude people, vehicles and pets from these areas during the critical nesting season (mid-April to August). Fenced exclosures, posting, vehicle exclusions, beach warden patrols, predator/pet removal and public education should all be considered in a protection strategy for this area. Responsible agencies should identify and implement those tasks and objectives of the piping plover recovery plan that may be applicable to this beach, including opportunities for habitat enhancement. Land protection options to be considered include conservation and management agreements, zoning restrictions, strict enforcement of pertinent endangered species regulations and acquisition.
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