Sanctuary of Sands
There is a stretch of sand parallel to the Elizabeth Field runway that remains a
pristine sanctuary for the threatened Piping Plover. The waterline, beach, coves,
tidal pools and dunes together form an exceptional example of Fishers Island as it
has been for hundreds of years.
Named "Sanctuary of Sand" by Fishers Island Conservancy Naturalist Justine Kibbe,
the area is marked at either end with bright informational signs about Plovers.
These signs, from The Nature Conservancy/Long Island Sound, are paired with four
smaller Town of Southold red and white signs near the dunes, notifying visitors of
the presence of federally protected birds, nests and eggs.
"The signs tell a little bit about the threatened Piping Plover, which lays its eggs
within the dune grasses," Ms. Kibbe said. "There are fewer than 2000 pairs of these
birds left on the Atlantic Coast. That’s why we ask people to tread carefully, leash
dogs and not disturb the plovers’ habitat.
"Recognizing and respecting this sanctuary is a way for all of us to learn to be
stewards of Fishers Island. By truly understanding the natural gifts that we have
here, we will want to do everything possible to preserve it for future generations."
The Sanctuary of Sands was a particular favorite of Fishers Island's premier
naturalist, the late Edwin Horning. Mr. Horning stopped there on nature walks to
observe the separate world of shorebirds interacting with one another and feeding
within salted kelp and eelgrass berms.
"I use the Sanctuary of Sands as an outdoor classroom for Mrs. Burns's third and
fourth grade students at Fishers Island School and also for an afterschool program
for fifth grade through high school," Ms. Kibbe said. "The students are my 'Tribe', so-
called from my years living among the Unungan tribe of the Bering Sea.
"The Aleuts taught me that an Island environment exemplifies the universal gift of
knowing and seeing that we are all truly ONE with the natural world of sea and
sand, the rhythm of sun and moon, wind and waves. That's why I call the afternoon
program "Atukan-Akun", which is Aleut for "We Are One."
"I always give my Tribe the same homework assignment after our time together:
'Remember to tell your parents how grateful you are to have an Island.' I am
teaching the students about their unique opportunity to grow up, go to school, work
and live within our small, vibrant, yet fragile, environment that is Fishers Island."
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