Tom Wessels, MA
Department of Environmental Studies
This study was conducted for Essex County Greenbelt Association in order to give an idea of the proper management strategies for public use of a 7.5 acre parcel of beach and salt marsh in Gloucester, Massachusetts. For the study, a natural resource inventory, including vegetation, terrestrial vertebrates, and terrestrial and benthic invertebrates, was completed for the property. In addition, a human use study was conducted between July and October, 1996, to determine how the area was being used for recreation. For this part of the study, visible impact to the vegetation was also recorded and analyzed. Finally, the study includes a literature review of the impacts of similar uses on similar properties, to determine how the recorded uses might impact the plant communities documented in part one. The study concludes that the recorded use of this property is probably adversely impacting the species richness, species diversity, and vegetational zonation of the beach community. Salt marsh is probably less significantly affected due to the largely annual nature of the plants, and their ability to withstand considerable scouring and ice pressure in the winter. Despite the impacts seen, however, there are management strategies to mitigate these effects. The study includes suggestions for management of the property as well as possibilities for further study.