By Margie Plunkett

Herons, cranes, spoonbills, terns, pelicans and even red hawks make Ocean Ridge their home. Now, the town is moving toward becoming a bird sanctuary to protect them.

The town was exploring and preparing an ordinance it expects to present at its April 5 meeting, after resident Jeff Lee proposed the designation in March.

“The bird sanctuary prevents people from killing birds or their eggs,” Lee said. “It’s not Audubon certified, it’s just for community awareness. If you raise the awareness of birds, people will participate. It will bring out a different aspect of the town.”

The effort can be done with little or no cost to the town, without sanction from the National Audubon Society, Lee said. “We don’t have to go through anyone to do that, we just have to declare ourselves a sanctuary,” Town Manager Ken Schenck said.

“It might bring some recognition to Ocean Ridge,” Commissioner Betty Bingham said. ”We’re beginning to get more and more birds, although many people don’t see them.”

The parks and mangroves provide the beginnings of a sanctuary, Bingham said, forming a habitat for a host of birds, including storks, cranes and owls. Bingham noted “two red-tailed hawks most people don’t see.”

Commissioners asked for more research to determine what becoming a bird sanctuary entails. Schenck said late in March he was aiming to have the ordinance ready for first reading at the April meeting.

“There are so many different varieties of birds in Ocean Ridge because we have so much different parkland,” Lee said. The town’s parks areas include the 12-acre Ocean Ridge Nature Area.

The town in Ohio Lee previously lived in had “bird sanctuary” on every sign, he said. Groups formed to watch the birds and people’s involvement grew, with residents leading bird walks and spearheading other activities, he recalled. “It’s a community thing.”

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