SMITH POINT COUNTY PARK - Beachgoers and residents say they are upset that the outer beach at Smith Point County Park has been closed to vehicles for two months due to nesting piping plovers.
Suffolk County says the nesting is taking place near the main entrance beach access. The restriction has halted easy access to the beach area, forcing a longer walk to the shore.
The Parks Department says plovers are hard to spot, but they are inside the park. It says even tiny baby plovers can move quickly, which is why officials say access to beach vehicles needs to be restricted.
Plovers, a tiny shorebird listed as an endangered species, are federally protected.
Until the dunes are restored and vegetation grows back, environmental analyst Nick Gibbons says the county's hands are tied.
"It really doesn't matter if we want to or not, we are obligated by the federal government," says Gibbons.