Walk It, Don't Drive It!

Walk It, Don't Drive It!

Description of Project:

The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Coastal Resources Management Office (CRMO) is mandated to provide public access to shorelines while ensuring that the natural resources are protected and managed in a sustainable manner. In recent years area beaches have become progressively more impacted due to increased vehicular traffic. These impacts include destroyed vegetation, sand compaction, petroleum-based pollutants entering the near shore environment, and beach erosion; cumulatively deterring normal turtle nesting behavior. In response to these impacts and disturbed turtle behavior, an interagency educational and outreach campaign called “Walk it, Don’t drive it” was started in 2002 to discourage beach driving.

The first phase of the Campaign included education and outreach. The Campaign’s message was targeted at school children, government agencies, and disseminated throughout the community through newspaper articles, TV interviews, and public service announcements (PSA) broadcast at the local cinema (Appendix A). Within one year, this joint effort by the CRM Office, Northern Marianas College (NMC) Cooperative Extension and Education Services, Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) nearly doubled public awareness about the law prohibiting beach driving from 32% to 58% and decreased the number of unauthorized vehicles observed driving on the beach by 27% (see Appendix B). Although, awareness was measurably increased, it was also apparent that some drivers would require further incentives or obstacles to change beach driving behavior so that the shoreline could return to a more natural state and once again attract sea turtles. 

The Agencies decided to select one beach as a model site to determine the effectiveness of installing bollards and a limited access gate as a deterrent to motorized vehicles. Wing Beach was selected, as it was an important nesting site for the threatened Green Sea Turtle in the past, but had become heavily impacted by vehicular traffic. 

In the second phase of the Campaign CRMO produced an architectural and engineering (A&E) design for improving the public access and parking area including specifications for signage, bollards, and gate installation (Appendix C). Two public forums were held to see if the design and preventing vehicular access to Wing Beach would be acceptable by the public or meet with resistance. Public comment was obtained at the forums and incorporated into the A&E design. In general attendees supported the project; some went as far as suggesting that the beach be made into a Marine Protected Area (MPA) with seasonal closure during nesting season. However, the DFW determined that an MPA would not be necessary should vehicular traffic be eliminated.

The third phase of the campaign funded in part through this Agreement No. 122004G012 ($4,000, or 19% of the total costs for Phase 3, $21,444) included fabricating and installing information signs (Appendix D), a gate, bollards, and clearing and grading the north parking area. CRMO used additional NOAA funding to cover CRMO staff salary, bollard installation, and PSA production and broadcasting. CRMO also provided coral for the parking area and road improvements. The coral was collected from a construction company as partial payment for an imposed CRM Permit fine. The US Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided staff expertise on the varieties of vegetation that should be used for landscaping this site. DLNR’s forestry division propagated and provided 100 of the recommended indigenous trees, as well as paid for staff to show volunteers how to properly plant the trees. The DFW conservation officer, Larry Ilo, gathered and provided turtle data for 1997-2005. The Saipan Mayor’s Office and Department of Public Works (DPW) provided heavy equipment and staff time to enlarge the parking area, grade, and repair the existing access road.  

Timeline:

Phase 2

Nov 2003 –     Preliminary interagency meeting resulted in the selection of Wing Beach as a model site. “Walk it, Don’t drive it” Beach campaign School presentations given and PSAs aired at the theater, and broadcasted on TV. PowerPoint CDs distributed to teachers, and parents invited to attend public forums concerning limiting beach access.
Dec 2003 –     1st public forum. Community supported bollards and gate installation, also suggested a larger patrolled parking area at north access, closing south access, and establishing a MPA with seasonal closure during turtle nesting season.
Jan 2004 –      Adjacent hotel owner supported project. Cadastral plot coordinates obtained from Marianas Public Land Authority (MPLA). Private land owners who may own lots traversed by existing roadway contacted by mail.
Feb 2004 –     Road running parallel to the shore surveyed and found to traverse private Lot #014 A 00. First draft A&E Design completed. Old public access road running perpendicular to the shore (east to west) overgrown with vegetation. DFW contacted for endangered wildlife assessment to see if overgrowth can be cleared without impacting species habitat. Began processing DEQ Earthmoving Permit for road repair.   
May 2004 –     2nd public forum. Obtained comment on draft A&E design and discussed seasonal closure. A&E design approved by participants, but seasonal closure met with resistance. DFW opts to forgo MPA as foot traffic is not considered a problem for turtle habitat.

Phase 3

Jun 2004 –      A&E design finalized. DFW finds endangered Nightingale Reed Warbler in the overgrowth of the old public access road. Design for information signs drafted. DFW approved signage and provided baseline turtle nesting data from 1997 through 2004.
Jul 2004 –       Sign design approved by US Fish and Wildlife. Private land owners who may have land traversed by existing road were asked to continue to allow public use of existing road, thereby avoiding endangered species habitat. Private land owners of Lot 014 A 01, and Lot 031 A 00 agreed to continue to allow public use, and road repair and maintenance without requiring land compensation. No Reed Warblers noted within the immediately adjacent area to the existing road way. Baseline photos taken of shoreline and vegetation patterns.
Aug 2004 -      The DEQ Earthmoving Permit is approved. Photos taken of vegetation on a regular frequency to record changes over time.
Oct 2004 -       Landscaping design completed with assistance from US NRCS and DLNR Forestry Division. DLNR forestry propagated and provided 100 trees for landscaping. Students from NMC Natural Resources Management Program, and volunteers from the Pilipino Overseas Worker Empowerment, (POWER) Inc., and The Team Responsible for Environmental Enhancement of Saipan (TREES) planted trees as part of an Arbor Month Celebration. The Northern parking area was enlarged and graded by the DPW Road Division. Project featured on the evening news. CRMO produced two 10 min TV PSAs discussing Non-point Source Pollution, such as driving on the beach, which showed footage of Wing Beach’s tire tracks.
Nov 2004 –    Saipan Mayor’s office finalized logistics for heavy equipment and staff for parking area improvements and road repair with DPW staff. DPW’s Solid Waste Division donated boulders from the excavated Marpi Landfill for use as barriers along the road. Met with Gerry Davis, Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation (NOAA/NMFS/Pacific Region) who suggested beach profiling as a short term indicator of turtle habitat health.
Dec 2004 –     Information signs and a gate fabricated and installed. Access keys provided to the Emergency Management Office and DPS. Boulders placed to block southern access and other newly made accesses. DPS asked to heighten enforcement of law prohibiting beach driving. Article featured in the local newspaper. TV news featured project on evening news. PSAs sent to Rota for broadcasting on that island’s open access TV channel. Existing access road running perpendicular to shore surveyed and found to traverse lot 013 A 01, belonging to the same private owner as that of lot 014 A 01. He again agreed to allow access through his property. The other potential Lot 031 A 01 found not to be traversed by the access road. DPW and Mayor’s Office began parking lot improvements and road repair following A&E Design specifications. CRMO provided coral.
Feb 2005 –     Road repair from northern access to southern access completed using coral contributed by CRMO. Heavy equipment supplied by Mayor’s Office and DPW as in-kind contribution.
July 2005 –     DFW conservation officer provided turtle data for 2005 season (Appendix E). Beach profile data and photos of recovering vegetation show measurable turtle habitat improvements. Began broadcasting new non-point source pollution prevention PSAs on Saipan TV.
Aug 2005 –     Terrestrial photography used to compare current vegetation patterns against those prior to construction (Appendix F). Beach profiles clearly show that tire tracks have filled in and the beach front vegetation has recovered (Appendix G). Final report submitted to US FWS.

Work Products/Deliverables:

US FWS - $4,000 – construction and installation of two signs ($1,600/sign), construction and installation of a gate at the north parking area ($775.00) and 10 bollards (total $1625.00. Since, only $633.00 remained of the Agreement No. 122004G012 funding, additional funding was provided from CRMO’s NOAA base grant to complete the installation at an additional cost of $992.00 (see Matching Funds/In-Kind Donations Table below). 
Partners/cost share: Partners included DEQ and DFW education and outreach staff; DFW conservation officers who collected turtle nesting data, DLNR Department of Agriculture, Forestry division, and NRCS provided landscape design and training, volunteers from NMC, POWER, and TREES assisted with planting; CRMO provided 26 truck loads (260 ft2) of coral collected as payment for a CRM Permit violation. DPW and Saipan Mayor’s Office provided heavy equipment for road improvements.
Other sources of funds – over $17,000:  CNMI CRMO provided staff time for forums, education and outreach, Sign design, PSA broadcasting, beach monitoring, surveying, bollard installation, and road improvements which came to a total of over $13,000. Together other agencies provided staff time, equipment, and landscaping which came to a total of over $4,000.

Matching Funds/in-kind Donations:

Donation Agency or Organization Units Cost
Phase 2 (2003-2004)      
Survey and A&E Design CRMO Contractual $10,000
two 10 min PSA production CRMO Contractual $15,000
2 Public Forums CRMO, DFW staff, 3 individuals 3 hr x 3 ea x $19.00 $171
    Total $25,171
Phase 3 (2004-2005) CRMO    
School Presentations CRMO staff, 1 individual 10 hr x $19.00 $190
PSA production CRMO staff, 1 individual 80 hr x $19.00 $1,520
2 Public Forums CRMO and DFW staff, 4 individual 12 hr x 4 ea x $19.00 $912
Sign design CRMO staff, 1.25 individuals 40 hr x 1.25 ea x $19.00 $950
Beach profiles and photos CRMO staff, 2 individuals 5 hr x  2 ea x $19.00 $190
Road Survey CRMO Contractual $500
Bollard installation CRMO (remaining costs) $1625 - $633 = $992 $992
6 mo. PSA broadcasting CRMO Contractual $5,960
Coral for parking & road CRMO from fines 260 cu ft x $7.08/cu ft $1,840
    Subtotal $13,054
  Other    
landscaping design DLNR Forestry tree propagation 100 trees x $2.00 ea $200
Landscaping DLNR Forestry staff, 3 individuals 2 hr x 3 ea x $19.00 $114
Landscaping NMC students, TREES, and POWER, inc., 50 volunteers 2 hr x 50 ea x $6.00 $600
Turtle data collection DFW staff, 1 individual 1hr/wk day  240 hr x $9.60 $2,304
Parking lot clearing and grading and road repair DPW and Mayor’s Office staff, 7 individuals 8 hr x 7 ea x $9.50 $532
Heavy Equipment Mayor’s Office and DPW, front end loader and dump truck 8 hr (loader $45/hr + dump truck $35/hr) $640
    Subtotal $4,390
    US Fish and Wildlife $4,000
    TOTAL $21,444

Evaluation of Project Success

Signage was well received by the public and CRMO has received positive feed back from other government agencies as to their effectiveness, e.g. DFW, and the National Park Service. To date the signs have not been vandalized and remain a source of information to visitors at the beach.
Turtle nesting data for 2005 was provided by Larry Ilo of CNMI DFW in July (Appendix D). However, upon reviewing the provided data and seeking advise from Gerry Davis, Assistant Regional Administrator for Habitat Conservation (NOAA/NMFS/Pacific Region) it was decided that the collected data would not provide an appropriate measure of this project’s impact on turtle numbers as the time interval for data collection is too short compared to the turtles’ age at maturation (approximately 30 yrs) and infrequent mating cycle. Therefore, our relatively short-term data (1997-2005) would provide little information on this project’s impact on turtle numbers unless data was collected for over a 30 year period. In light of this, Dr. Davis advised using beach profiling as a short term indicator of beach recovery from vehicular traffic, which would indirectly measure turtle habitat health.

 

Therefore, a baseline beach profile using the Emory method (Appendix F) was established in November 2005 prior to sign and gate installation and conducted regularly thereafter to record turtle habitat changes after the cessation of beach driving. Beach ivy was seen growing over the existing tire tracks immediately after vehicular access to the beach was closed off at the end of November 2004 (Appendix E). This can be seen in the beach profiling charts for sites 3, 4 and especially 5 at the southern access. The tire tracks were virtually undetectable by January 2005 and now small Thespesia populnea “Banalo” and Messerschmidia argentea “Hunig” seedlings have been seen growing within the path that cars used to use to traverse the beach.
The agencies are very pleased with the results of this project and support using similar techniques to close off more shorelines to vehicular traffic.
   Banalo seedlings, Aug 2005

Acknowledgements:

CRMO would like to thank CRM staff and the many other government agencies that helped bring this project to a successful completion: DPW, DLNR DFW and Forestry, NRCS, and DEQ. CRMO also thanks Mayor Juan B. Tudela of Saipan, the private land owners Mr. Takashi Yamagishi and Honorable Juan T. Lizama for allowing access, Stingray Divers, All American Divers who provided photos for the signage, and the non-profit organizations that volunteered their time.
CRMO would especially like to recognize those individuals who went above and beyond in their effort to return this beach to a healthier turtle habitat: James Babauta and Ben Cepeda (DLNR Forestry), George M. Camacho (Saipan Mayor’s Office), Larry Ilo (DFW), Ken Kramer (NRCS), Frank Sablan (DPW), NMC Natural Resource Program students, POWER, Inc., and TREES.