2013-09-26 / News

Scientist will begin tracking migratory birds at Beavertail

By Margo Sullivan

The Conservation Commission will help support a bird-banding project that will track migratory birds that visit Beavertail.

Former Commissioner Chris Powell asked for a donation for the project at the panel’s meeting on Sept. 10. Charlie Clarkson, who has a Ph.D. in ornithology from the University of Virginia and is an adjunct professor at Roger Williams University, will head the project.

There is a precedent, Powell told the commissioners. He said a donation was made for a bat study during the turbine controversy.

Powell said Clarkson would share the data he collects with the town. He has already acquired permits for bird banding.

Clarkson has family in Jamestown but now lives in Newport. The commissioners agreed to contribute $200 to the effort, in addition to the support Clarkson received from his church. According to Powell, Clarkson hopes to set up a bird-banding station in the park.

Under old business, Commissioner Anne Kuhn-Hines said she scheduled a meeting with Town Engineer Michael Gray about planting grasses on the Mackerel Cove beach dunes. The plants were devastated during Hurricane Sandy last October.

According to Kuhn-Hines, Gray wants to wait until spring to do the planting. He advised her that spring is the most opportune time and federal money will still be available.

In the spring, the Conservation Commission debated whether or not to plant some grasses on the dunes. Dune grasses were not readily available, however, so the debate was moot. The plants were in short supply because communities up and down the East Coast had ordered them in a similar effort to repair the storm damage.

As an alternative, Kuhn-Hines located dune plugs, but Gray advised her the Federal Emergency Management Agency wouldn’t cover the cost even though the plugs were the same species.

“FEMA would only cover American beach grass,” she said, meaning exclusively the bare root plants.

Kuhn-Hines has investigated some other species that could help protect the barrier beach from erosion. The commission plans to add other species at Mackerel Cove to protect the dunes, but she noted that FEMA will not contribute to those purchases.

In other business, the project to restore the Hull Cove trail is moving forward, Chairwoman Maureen Coleman said. Town officials have asked the commission to organize an informational workshop with the neighbors and other residents to answer questions and concerns.

“Some of the things people are concerned about aren’t really going to happen,” Commissioner Michael Brown said. Brown prepared the funding application but said the grant and the actual project are not going to be identical. For one thing, he said, there are still questions about whether the raised boardwalk will be handicap accessible.

“They also gave us a little less money than we asked for,” Coleman said.

According to Coleman, the request was for $100,000, but the town was awarded $80,000. She suggested discussing the workshop at the commission’s next meeting in October.

In other business, the commissioners discussed the next steps for the Round Marsh restoration.

“We’re getting ready to submit the permits to the CRMC for the applications for the assent,” Kuhn- Hines said. She planned to discuss those requirements when she met with Gray about the dune grasses. At this point, Kuhn-Hines said, most of the information has been collected. Zoning Official Fred Brown, however, still has to sign off on the plans and the abutters have to be notified.

Powell suggested some other preparations, such as contacting the Audubon Society, which owns half the marsh.

Also, the commissioners continue to work on ideas for a new column for the Jamestown Press. They had initially intended to write the column about the Round Marsh, but now, Coleman said, there were other topics that might be timely, such as the stewardship of the tax lots in the Jamestown Shores. After some debate, Coleman and Kuhn- Hines decided to do both topics and decide later how to schedule the run dates with the editor.

In other business, Brown agreed to take over for Commissioner George Souza on the newly formed Tick Task Force. Souza had wanted to represent the commission, but the task force has been holding its meetings at 4:30 p.m. when he is at work.

The task force was formed in August but has already met three times. It has launched a website and a Facebook page.

After reviewing the Facebook page and the new website, Coleman concluded the task force has generated ample material to help people figure out how to avoid getting bitten by ticks. However, she has some concerns about a lack of information about the risks of using pesticides. Specifically, she said, the task force is not putting out enough “warnings about the downside of using pesticides.”

Coleman says she wants to make sure the task force understand the facts. She plans to send the members a letter about pesticides.

Commissioner Patrick Driscoll suggested the commission stay out of the controversy about killing deer. He also expressed doubt the deer represent an “invasive species,” as Kuhn-Hines suggested, citing a comment from a University of Rhode Island bug specialist who said there was no evidence of deer in Jamestown prior to 1986.

Driscoll said he would be highly skeptical if deer were not present on the island historically and noted they are excellent swimmers.

Coleman said she is doubtful the task force will focus on killing deer because it’s probably not possible to cull 400 animals. The issue is complex, she added, because deer are not the only carriers of deer ticks. In fact, she said, “The mice are the ones that are infecting the ticks.” The ticks then latch on to the deer and breed, she added.

Under new business, Coleman reported she spoke with Town Planner Lisa Bryer about longterm plans for protecting open space.

In the meantime, a property has come up that may fall into this category, Coleman said. The property adjoins state land on Beavertail. Powell said the property already has a conservation easement.

“Most of the property is wetlands,” Powell said. “It’s contiguous to Beavertail.” Powell said he talked to the state Department of Environmental Management about the situation because the property has been put up for sale.

“In one way, you can sit on it and wait and see if it sells,” he said, adding the commissioners should keep the property “on the radar screen.” If sold, part of the land could be developed.

According to Powell, “There’s a potential for four houses under the easement.”

He also noted the property is not on the open-space plan.

Patrick Driscoll said there are some access issues, however.

“They’re asking $2.5 million, which means they would take less than that,” he said. Driscoll suggested some nonprofit organizations in town might be approached and persuaded to help take the land off the market.

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