One special visitor's planned arrival to Fire Island is creating a pressing deadline for the cleanup of tons of rotting wood, sheet rock, old refrigerators and other Superstorm Sandy debris from the popular vacation destination east of New York City.
Contractor crews are scrambling to get the trash removed by the end of March, before truck access is severely restricted to protect the nesting areas of the endangered bird species known as the piping plover.
"The deadline has everyone's attention," said Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association, which represents businesses and homeowners on the 32-mile-long barrier island south of Long Island.
She said most homeowners do not begrudge laws protecting the plover, a compact, pale shorebird with coloring that makes it all but vanish against the open sand flats where it nests.
But if officials can't get the cleanup done by the deadline, they will have to haul away the estimated 82,500 cubic yards of trash by barge, which will be much more expensive and take longer.
That could push the cleanup closer to the Memorial Day-to-Labor Day tourist season, when the population of Fire Island swells from 300 to 75,000.
Access to the beachfront by vehicle will be banned until after September, according to environmentalists.