Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve to close for repairs due to trespass and unauthorized use

July 27, 2020
Cape Charles Natural Preserve Area

Effective July 29, at 8 p.m., Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve on the Eastern Shore of Virginia will be closed to the public. The closure applies to the access point at 301 Patrick Henry Ave., Cape Charles. This is the only authorized access point to the preserve. The closure includes the boardwalk leading to a viewing platform that overlooks a low bluff at the Chesapeake Bay shoreline.

The closure is in effect through at least Oct. 1.

Visitation to Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve has surpassed capacity in recent months. This has included unauthorized access through coastal maritime forest, across eroding dunes and on the sandy shore, which provides habitat for the federally endangered Northeastern beach tiger beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis). Access in these areas is not permitted. 

While public access via the boardwalk is permitted, unauthorized access is in direct conflict with the conservation purposes of the preserve. Unauthorized shoreline access also has exacerbated erosion at the boardwalk terminus. Repairs are needed to ensure public safety if the preserve is to reopen for public use.  

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“Taking a walk on the boardwalk at Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve has long provided visitors and residents of Cape Charles with the opportunity to bird watch, bay-gaze and otherwise immerse themselves in a quiet natural setting,” said Dot Field, Eastern Shore steward for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage division. “DCR, with the assistance of the local Master Naturalist chapter, has always been pleased to be able to safely provide this experience.

“Unfortunately, however, the urge to get outside during the pandemic has led to a steadily increasing level of visitation that is impacting the stability of the boardwalk and the sensitive natural communities it traverses. Visitors exploring areas beyond the boardwalk have added to management concerns. Temporary closure will allow repairs to be made to the compromised Chesapeake Bay overlook and will allow some recovery of the impacted natural communities.”

The 29-acre preserve in Northampton County is managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. While closed, DCR’s Natural Heritage staff will repair and modify the boardwalk so that the public can access the preserve safely, without further exacerbating shoreline erosion, and without negative impacts to the natural heritage resources protected there.

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