BOSTON — Kiteboarders are pushing back against bans in the protected waters off Cape Cod, but federal officials say the prohibitions are necessary because the kites scare away piping plovers and other threatened or endangered shorebirds from their traditional nesting areas.
Kiteboarding, or kitesurfing, is an increasingly popular sport that involves riding a surfboard while being pulled by a large kite.
In early June, the U.S. National Park Service decided to ban the sport along the Cape Cod National Seashore, which extends about 40 miles from Provincetown to Chatham. The ban is in effect from March 15 through Oct. 15 on both the oceanside and bayside of the protected area.
Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also considering a ban for Monomoy, a nearly 8,000-acre island refuge just south of the national seashore.
That proposal, which is part of the refuge’s long-term conservation plan, won’t take effect until 2015 at earliest, according to Elizabeth Herland of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is hosting an open house to discuss the plan at the Chatham Community Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Federal officials say the bans are needed because piping plovers, roseate terns, red knots and other shorebirds can mistake the kites for predatory birds and flee their nests, leaving their chicks unprotected.
The disturbances also force the birds to expend precious energy at a time they should be resting and preparing for their migration to warmer climates as winter approaches.
“It’s a real issue,” said George Price, superintendent for the Cape Cod National Seashore. “I’ve personally observed kiteboarders zipping up and down the shore near protected bird areas.”
But seasoned kiteboarders complain they are being punished for the actions of a few irresponsible enthusiasts. They also say their sport is being unfairly singled out, noting that sailing and other wind-based water activities are still allowed.
Jean Dunoyer, founder of MassKiting.com, a local kiteboarder community page, says he and others have asked Price to consider placing restrictions on where kiteboarders can land, launch and sail rather than an outright ban. Price has so far declined the requests.
Eric Gustafson, owner of Fun Seekers, a Wellfleet company that offers kiteboarding and other water sport lessons, says the ban is the latest in a line of prohibitions eroding the quality of recreation on Cape Cod’s national seashore. Along with kiteboarding, the seashore also banned smoking in lifeguard-monitored beaches and the use of drones this summer.
“It’s this total fun-police-type state going on here,” Gustafson said. “Pretty soon you’re not going to be able to walk down the beach.”
Jack Clarke, public policy director at the Mass Audubon, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, says there are plenty of other places along the Cape for the sport. The federal bans do not cover locally managed beaches, only some of which restrict kiteboarding.
“There’s not a lot of areas for the growth and development of endangered bird species,” Clarke said. “They’re getting squeezed out.”
Adam Gordon, of the Boston Kite School, a Lynn-based company that offers kitesurfing lessons, is concerned the bans might set a bad precedent. Kiteboarding has been banned in some national seashores, including Padre Island in Texas, but not others, like Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.