After a week of confusion and uncertainty, town officials say revelers will be allowed to celebrate July 3 on White Horse Beach — or at least on a swath of it.

Two nests of endangered piping plovers were threatening to shut down the pre-Independence Day festivities, which for years have been major Plymouth events — complete with massive fireworks displays and bonfires.

One nest is gone but a second, with four chicks and two adults, is located between Bartlett Brook and Priscilla Beach, town officials said.

As a result, about a half mile of the beach will be restricted — with no bonfires or fireworks allowed. Fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts but have been a staple of the celebrations for years.

Access to part of White Horse Beach is restricted because of a piping plover nest. (Photo by Wes Ennis)

Fire Chief Neil Foley said the Fire Department on Wednesday started issuing bonfire permits for the section of the beach where fires will be allowed and is expected to hand out another seven or so in the coming week.

It wasn’t clear whether the celebratory crowds would have stayed away if more of the beach had been restricted. Or even whether they will obey the lighter restrictions.

“I talked to a few people, and they were still going on with their parties,” said one longtime White Horse beach resident. “They have been stocking up on wood for the bonfires, storing it since right after the winter.”

David Gould, director of the town’s Department of  Energy and Environment, says the town takes seriously its obligation to follow strict state and federal guidelines protecting the scarce birds.

The town identifies and monitors the nests and makes every effort to protect them, he said.

“We do all of it,” Gould said.

Andrea Estes can be reached at

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