Portion of Gordons Pond Closed For Piping Plovers

State and Federal Protection of Piping Plover Nest to Close Portion of Beach at Gordons Pond on Cape Henlopen

Dover (June 23, 2023) … The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control today announced that the first piping plover nest discovered at Gordons Pond in Cape Henlopen State Park since 2016 will result in the temporary closure of 800 feet of beach for protection of the new nest and any piping plover chicks that may hatch and fledge from it. The piping plover is listed as a state-endangered species in Delaware by the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife in addition to its threatened status listing on the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

During the closure, which goes into effect Monday, June 26, DNREC will install fencing around the nest with the possibility of extending fence footage to accommodate movement by the piping plover parents and potential chicks within Cape Henlopen State Park. Though the first such closure for protection of piping plovers at Gordons Pond in seven years, the species has nested there on a number of occasions since they were ESA-listed in 1986. The protective fencing will extend to the high water mark on a portion of Cape Henlopen’s ocean beach while symbolic fencing – cautionary signage on fence posts tied off by twine – will be another deterrent at Gordons Pond to entering the nesting area in the dune, which is prohibited at all times.

herring point, gordons pond, cape henlopen state park, delaware, sussex county, aerial shots of delaware
Section of beach normally closed for piping plovers … photo by Amy Conroy
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Another stretch of beach at Cape Henlopen, The Point, is currently closed through Sept. 1 (through Oct. 1 for The Point’s bayside beach), as it has been annually since 1993 for the benefit of threatened and endangered beach-nesting and migratory shorebird species to include red knots, piping plovers, American oystercatchers and least terns. The DNREC Divisions of Parks and Recreation, Fish and Wildlife, and Watershed Stewardship have worked together since 1990 on a management plan to help grow shorebird populations in Delaware – with USFWS oversight for protective measures on the shorebirds’ behalf.

During the protective period, drive-on surf fishing reservations for weekends and holidays will continue to be taken by the DNREC Division of Parks and Recreation, but surf fishing access will be slightly limited due to the closed beach area’s proximity to the newly-discovered piping plover nest. Drive-on surf fishing access will be permitted from Herring Point and Gordons Pond; however, anglers will not be able to access Gordons Pond from the Herring Point access, or vice versa. Driving through the closed piping plover area is prohibited during this time and could result in fines from Delaware Natural Resources Police Park Rangers or USFWS, or both, should the nest or the piping plovers be adversely impacted. Closure restrictions are to be enforced as long as the nest remains active, which, by USFWS calculations, could run well into August.

Since it was launched earlier this spring, the pilot surf fishing program’s peak daily reservation sales portal has combined Herring Point and Gordons Pond as a single reservable location. To accommodate restrictions on surf fishing vehicles during the temporary closure, the sales portal has been updated to offer separate reservation options for drive-on access to either Herring Point or Gordons Pond. Runners and other recreationalists are also prohibited from entering the restricted piping plover protection area during the closure at Cape Henlopen.

For more information about piping plovers and DNREC volunteer opportunities for monitoring the beach-nesting species, contact DNREC Avian Conservation Program Manager Sam Robinson at 302-735-8667, or email Samantha.Robinson@delaware.gov. For more information about surf fishing in Delaware, including surf fishing reservation availability and current beach accessibility at Delaware State Parks’ drive-on beaches, visit destateparks.com/SurfTagSales.

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