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Taking the Mystery out of Beach Access

The beach is open and can be accessed from the residential and non-residential lots, but we understand that limited access to the drive-on portion of the beach is frustrating. We recognize that driving onto the beach has been a cherished tradition for many and holds a special place in our hearts. We acknowledge the value of these traditions and the nostalgia they bring. As an organization, we work hard to balance the preservation, protection, and enjoyment on Duxbury Beach. Our collective responsibility to be stewards of the environment requires us all to make difficult choices to ensure the longevity and sustainability of these delicate ecosystems for future generations.

The decision to close crossovers is not one that is taken lightly. The Town of Duxbury is the ultimate decision maker in crossover access in order to stay within federal and state regulations.

We know there are many questions around Beach Access. This page will answer frequently asked questions and clarify sometimes confusing information.

Beach Status

Click here to
see the latest beach status information
from the
Beach Operations Division.

What is the current status of birds on Duxbury Beach?

  • Currently, there are 46 pairs of Piping Plovers on the beach, with 0 active nests, 8 broods of chicks and 18 broods have fledged.  To date, 19 nests and 12 broods have been lost (as of 7/24/23)

  • The Least Terns are observed throughout the beach.  Oldest chicks are between 16-21 days old. There are many young chicks between 1-5 days old.  In addition, there are nests that are still incubating and will hatch soon.  We are at peak nesting right now.  


Why are the crossovers closed?

  • The crossovers are closed because Duxbury Beach is home to a number of listed species. The Piping Plovers are protected under both the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and the Least Terns are listed as Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts and protected under the state Endangered Species Act (MESA). Each of these species require that we all follow specific regulations in order for Duxbury Beach to remain accessible for recreational use. Space on the drive-on and crossover access typically reduces once chicks start to hatch. Vehicles are not allowed within regulated distances of chicks so once chicks hatch or move close to crossovers, the crossovers have to close. Beach managers are not allowed to deter or move chicks from being on sections of the beach.

When will they be re-opened?

  • Unfortunately, this is a moving target. DBR is able to calculate approximate dates that birds will fledge (fly away) based on when incubation start, but there are a number of factors that may directly impact those timelines. For example, if a piping plovers or least terns nest is destroyed by waves or predators, each species will lay a new nest. The Piping Plovers will re-lay up to four times and the Least Terns will re-lay up to three times. These new nests restart the timeline for when the family would fledge and reopen the crossovers. Chicks of both species can move large distances in search of food or shelter from predators, human disturbance, or bad weather so even when families nearest the crossovers fledge, new families may move into that area and cause the crossover to remain closed. This year, the extreme weather conditions (very hot days, abnormally cold days, heavy rains) at peak hatching time for piping plovers as well as increased predation of eggs has caused a high level of nest and chick loss. Because it is still early in the season, many birds are laying new nests (typically one week after egg/chick loss). DBR works hard to protect the current eggs and chicks so that birds do not have to lay yet another round of nests, further delaying reopening

Is the whole beach closed?

  • No, the whole beach is not closed. Visitors can access the beach from the residential and non-residential lots. Although there may be times that certain crossovers and areas are closed, there are other ways to access the beach.

Is DBR doing everything they can to deter the birds from nesting near crossovers?

  • DBR holds a permit from the state that allows activities not usually permissible under the endangered species regulations that help allow more beach access for people. All of the activities have strict guidelines about where and when they are implemented. DBR has permission to deter nesting and move nests under strict limits and circumstances. It is important to remember that deterrence and nest moving are for nests only - not chicks! Nests do not cause crossovers to close on Duxbury Beach, chicks do. If a nest is laid too close to a crossover, DBR has multiple options to keep it open and uses its permit to do so.
    Many people ask if DBR can stop birds from nesting close to the crossovers so that once chicks hatch, they’re not close enough to cause the crossover to close. There are two problems with this idea - more than one pair nests near each crossover and there are limits to how much space beach managers can deter birds from nesting in. Deterrence is limited to two acres on Duxbury Beach – it would take approximately all two acres to deter birds far enough away from a crossover (in one direction) to keep that crossover open when the nest hatches. However, there are multiple bird families that impact the crossovers and cause the closures. The crossover would still close due to the bird family in the other direction and it is almost guaranteed that the chicks from the deterred family would move closer to the crossover and cause it to close regardless. In the end, all of the time, funds, and “take exposures” spent detering a family from a crossover would be wasted and would not be available to spend in more dire circumstances where we would have a better chance of making an impact, such as if birds started to nest in the middle of crossover, pedestrian path, or parking lot. 


Who determines when crossovers are closed and opened?

  • The Town is the ultimate decision maker in crossover access while keeping within federal and state regulations. The Town, in most instances, consults with DBR, regarding crossover access during listed species periods.

What would happen if the crossovers were opened while a listed species was in the crossover restricted area?

  • The Federal and State regulators have the authority to revoke Duxbury Beach Reservation's permit to allow recreational vehicles on Duxbury Beach. If the regulations are not followed, the permit would be revoked, roads and parking lots would be closed (with the exception of Gurnet/Saquish residents), and no traffic would be allowed over the Powder Point Bridge as the vehicle would be on Reservation property once it crossed the bridge.

Is the Reservation planning on closing driving on Duxbury Beach?

  • Absolutely not. DBR has expert staff that has gone to great lengths to provide, to the extent possible, driving and parking on the beach. DBR recognizes the importance of families enjoying all aspects of Duxbury Beach.

Who determines how long the beach is open during the day?

  • The Town invites folks to recreate on the beach and sets all opening and closing times on the beach.

Why can’t the crossovers be opened when listed species are in the area?

  • When listed species are in restricted areas, we have no jurisdiction over access – it’s controlled by the state and federal regulations.

What is the relationship between the Town and Duxbury Beach Reservation?

  • The Town and the Reservation collaborate on numerous items, ultimately the Town manages the vehicles and pedestrians.

How are the responsibilities divided between the Town and Duxbury Beach Reservation’s role?

  • The Town leases a portion of the beach and then sells beach stickers and invites people to purchase them. As such, the Town Beach Operations manages the people and the vehicles and enforces the Duxbury Beach rules. Duxbury Beach Reservation's mission is to preserve the coastal landform, protect the ecology and provide access, resident status notwithstanding.

Do taxpayer dollars subsidize the lease of the Duxbury Beach Operation?

  • No, the revenue of the sales of beach stickers offsets any public expenditure and any profit goes to the town.

Who sets the prices of the beach stickers?

  • The Town sets the prices for beach stickers. 

Is windsurfing allowed on Duxbury Beach?

  • Sure can! But there are some guidelines that need to be followed. Windsurfing/kiteboarding is permitted on the bayside of Duxbury Beach from established vehicle pull-offs and access paths. Vehicles must have an OSV sticker to drive down the back road south of the Powder Point Bridge or park at pull-offs yearround. Windsurfing is not allowed within 200m of nesting activity or within "Sensitive Wildlife Areas" set up to protect unfledged chicks. These rules can be found under the "Recreational Beach/Regulations" section of the Duxbury Beach Guide and Rules pamphlet.

What causes nighttime driving to close?

  • Nighttime on the beach is a whole new experience and we want people to spend as much time on the beach as possible. However, there are guidelines we must all adhere to in order to keep the wildlife safe. Nighttime driving is not permitted within 1000m of unfledge piping plover chicks. When the first nest within 1000m of the OSV is due to hatch, the Town must decide if it will work with DBR to implement DBR's state-approved nighttime trial study, which allows driving within 200-500m of unfledge chicks, depending on their age. Based on the requirements of the trial study, for most of the summer, only Crossover 1 is allowed to stay open for nighttime OSV use. Therefore, if Crossover 1 is closed to driving due to the proximity of unfledged plovers or terns, then nighttime driving is also closed in a majority of situations.

Reviewed August 22, 2023

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