The Shoreline Preservation Fund (SPF) approved a $7,000 grant Monday night for the Coal Oil Point Reserve to hire workers to close off a path leading from the parking lots near Devereux elementary school to the mouth of the slough at Sands Beach.

The trail opens onto the beach at a roosting spot for western snowy plovers, a federally threatened species. Coal Oil Point Reserve Director Cristina Sandoval asked SPF for $10,000 to build fencing around the plover roost and close off the trail, but the seven-member board chose, after a week of deliberation, only to fund the trail closure.

“We feel this solution has the least impact on students and maximizes the effectiveness,” SPF Grants Manager Scott Bull said.

SPF uses a $3 per student per quarter tuition fee to fund coastal education and restoration projects in Santa Barbara. The group announced, also at its Monday meeting, that it would accept campus-student organizations’ applications for $250 to pay for beach cleanups.

Sandoval appeared at a SPF meeting on Jan. 28, but the board delayed a decision to take more time to gauge student opinion, members said.

The proposal by the COPR would put a fence around the plover roost, closing off 10 percent of the beach near the mouth of the slough to human access. Beach-goers would have to walk along a wet sand corridor to get up the beach toward Ellwood.

There are approximately 180 snowy plovers – roughly 10 percent of the Pacific Coast population – on Sands Beach, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The small shorebirds spend about 10 months of the year at Sands, but leave for other beaches for two months in the spring or summer to breed.

Because plovers are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the reserve must attempt to protect them, or face fines from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a draft recovery plan for the Pacific Coast population of plovers, the USFWS set a goal of four breeding pairs at Sands each year.

The USFWS has entirely closed down other beaches, such as Vandenburg, to protect plovers.