Bay Creek Beaches Must Be ‘Left to Nature’


September 2, 2014

The lowly Northeastern beach tiger beetle, a threatened species, has won out over Bay Creek beach goers — with the help of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Bay Creek Homeowners Association used to rake the Bay Creek beaches to remove whatever washed up with the tide, such as seaweed, grasses, and the like — just as Cape Charles does at the town’s public beach. But the raking, especially with a tractor, is highly damaging to the Northeastern beach tiger beetle, whose habitat has been reduced to two areas: Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and some relatively undisturbed beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.

That counts out the town public beach, where the tiger beetle gave up long ago. But the Bay Creek beaches, having become frequented by people only in recent times, still host the tiger beetle. So the beaches at Bayside Village and at The Colony/Kings Bay have been designated by the F&WS as tiger beetle habitat and may not be disturbed. 

“This means that the beach must be left to nature with the exception that human pedestrian traffic is permitted, as well as the hand removal of glass, metal, plastic, etc. In years past the beach at Bay Creek was mechanically raked and maintained. This practice was suspended when the F&WS Enforcement branch placed the management of the Home Owners Association on notice that cleaning the beach is a violation of law subject to criminal prosecution and heavy daily fines for continued violations,” the Bay Creek HOA reported to its members in August.


For almost three years, the HOA worked with F&WS on creating a Habitat Conservation Plan that would allow some raking of the beaches. According to the HOA, the plan would have allowed raking in return for “mitigation” in the form of construction of additional breakwaters to the south of the existing ones to help prevent beach erosion.

But HOA engineers estimated the cost of the breakwaters at $1.5-$1.75 million. Additionally, the HOA would be required to add sand as needed to protect the tiger beetle’s habitat. And the HOA would have to pay for annual studies to determine if the habitat was being maintained. In return, F&WS would allow hand raking of close to a mile of shoreline, but only from mid-July through August each year.

That was paying too much to get too little, the HOA determined, and so has announced to its members that it has given up on getting permission to rake the Bay Creek beaches.



Bay Creek Beaches Must Be ‘Left to Nature’”

  1. Jack Forgosh on September 2nd, 2014 8:48 am

    CLICK to read Wikipedia description. The northeastern beach tiger beetle suffered a major decline over the last 20 years. This decline was caused by the destruction and disturbance of the beetle’s natural beach habitat by human activity, one of the greatest threats being shoreline hardening by the placement of rip-rap.

  2. Barbara Murray on September 2nd, 2014 6:02 pm

    This is the most absurd nonsense! I personally don’t give a flip about this darn beetle. A far as I am concerned, they can die! What I DO care about is the condition of the beach. What kind of liability does the homeowners association (aka all of us unfortunate owners) incur if a child (or adult) is injured on a filthy beach littered with glass/metal and other debris? One of the things we paid for when we bought these homes was the actual USE of the private beach. Duped again by Bay Creek!
    Does that mean that, since we don’t incur the costs of raking the beach, our homeowner dues will be reduced? Does that mean that anything that is dead and stinking that shows up on the beach is left there to rot? Talk about killing the golden goose of tourism (or maybe it should be the tin goose since no one will want to come to the beach in Cape Charles!). Take away the beach from a beach town, and you take away the incentive to be there. Property values take a dive (again)! Just wait until you have more businesses closing because of fewer visitors and/or people who would like to relocate to Cape Charles. Your federal government at work again. Maybe our dear leader McAuliffe can appeal to his buddy Obama to cut us some slack on this . . . Fat Chance.

  3. Deborah Bender on September 2nd, 2014 11:02 pm

    The Tiger Beetle is only at the Bay Creek beach, not the beach in town. Guess those beetles like living behind the gates too.

  4. Wayne Creed on September 4th, 2014 10:42 am

    The efforts to protect wildlife in the United States started way back with the Lacey Act, signed into law in 1900 by President William McKinley, “directed more at the preservation of game and wild birds by making it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the purpose of selling the bounty in another.” The next step in the process came with the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 which set up a list of species native to the United States that qualified as endangered. The animals on this list were then afforded certain protections from the National Wildlife Refuge System to “conserve, protect, restore, and propagate certain species of native fish and wildlife.” Despite these protections, however, researchers found that the act was insufficient. More protections were added and later expanded by the Endangered Species Act of 1969.

    Still considered too weak and watered down, the 1969 ESA was amended by the Endangered Species Act of 1973, signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The act is administered by two federal agencies, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The ultimate goal of the 1973 act was to protect those plant and animal species that are at risk of becoming extinct. There are more than 1,300 U.S. plants and animals federally listed as threatened or endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act, including the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle.

    As a member of the Wetlands Board, we were always keenly alerted by former Town Planner Tom Bonadeo of the existence of this bug, and many of the permits we approved came with stipulations regarding the care and keeping of its habitat, so it seems odd that the Bay Creek HOA would have been raking in that area. However, they should now be applauded for doing the right thing and allowing the beach to go back to a more natural state, more suitable for the tiger beetle. That seems like a pretty fair bargain (considering a maximum fine could/should have been levied against the HOA). Honestly, is destroying a creature’s habitat just to have a manicured beach really worth it? Besides, natural beaches are really more interesting.

    My mother in law lives in Florence, Oregon, along the Pacific Coast. Her beach is one of the most beautiful in the world; the only time that thing gets raked is when a seal flops across it. I understand the Chesapeake Bay is rather filthy, and all sorts of debris will wash up. But there are alternatives. Instead of the millions they were going to spend on mitigation, why not hire a crew of teenagers to help clean up debris during the summer months? Even allow some to use this toward their community service quota. Just keeping it free of trash and debris, even without raking, should be enough retain the beach’s charm as well as provide an adequate home for the beetle.

  5. Susan Bauer on September 4th, 2014 4:32 pm

    As a property owner in Bay Creek, I am more than willing to share my beach with the tiger beetle. After all, the tiger beetles were there first. We are the intruders. We should be happy they allow us to share their habitat.

  6. Anne Hallerman on September 6th, 2014 10:39 am

    As a longtime Bay Creek homeowner, I was disappointed to learn about the restrictions on beach maintenance due to the tiger beetle habitat. I liked the white, sandy, well-groomed beach that had been created in Bay Creek. We have now been under the restrictions for several years, and overall the beach has been well maintained considering what can be done. The appearance now is more like a wild beach in the Outer Banks, but the HOA has provided large trash cans up and down the beach, and I don’t see a lot of debris that stays on the beach for a long time. Restrictions only allow for the pickup of debris.and even with mitigation, hand raking can only be done at limited times of year. The HOA has worked with the Fish and Wildlife Service for several years to find mitigants for the restrictions.

    The tiger beetle status is reviewed every few years, and in fact, has just been reviewed this year. The beetles do sometimes give up and leave, and big storms that impact the beach can change the population. For residents who don’t like debris on the beach, I suggest they pick it up and put it in a trash can, or in the case of large debris, alert the groundskeepers or the HOA for its removal. We can live with this. As Susan said, the beetles were here first.