Featured Stories & Articles from Cape Cod Travel Magazine: Cape Cod National Seashore Turns 50
A major milestone in the preservation and celebration of Cape Cod takes place this year; the Cape Cod National Seashore, which stretches over nearly 44,000 acres between Chatham and Provincetown, is turning 50 and has plans for a host of activities to mark the anniversary of the legislation signed by President John F. Kennedy on August 7th, 1961. President Kennedy, who had strong ties to the Cape, had sponsored the bill while he was still a senator for Massachusetts.
After a year or so dedicated to the acquisition of land, “The Seashore,” as it’s often locally referred to, began welcoming visitors. And David Spang, of Provincetown, remembers it well. He was there, working as an interpretive ranger, or “interp ranger.” In fact, Spang is still there, now acting as a volunteer.
“That first year or two, we were developing all the walks and trails,” said Spang. “We bushwhacked the trails and helped design them,” he added, noting that he is the only remaining original park employee, or “the last of the Mohicans,” as he put it.
According to William Burke, the park’s cultural resource program manager, a recreation of these first interp ranger-led walks is just one of the programs The Seashore has planned for the year.
“Every month we’ll have an exhibit in the Main Exhibit Room at Salt Pond Visitor Center,” said Burke. “The Cape Cod Quilters Guild will have a display of small quilts highlighting the history of the park and we’re talking about doing a show of aerial photos of Cape Cod National Seashore, both vintage and modern.”
Full details of these exhibits, and many more, are available at www.nps.gov/caco. Additional celebrations, also noted on the website, are planned at the Provincetown Art Association Museum, the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill and Province Lands Visitor Center. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, which is marking the 50th anniversary of the president’s inauguration this year, will also be highlighting photos of Kennedy signing the bill that established Cape Cod National Seashore.
Cape resident and author Daniel Lombardo recently released a book in anticipation of the anniversary and plans on signing copies of Cape Cod National Seashore: The First 50 Years, part of the “Images of America” series. The photo-filled book details the park’s history and blow-ups of many of these photos are slated for display at Salt Pond Visitor Center.
As The Seashore reaches this milestone, staff members are not only reflecting on the past, but also advancing their role as stewards of this beautiful park. When the park was first planned, estimates for the annual number of visitors were set in the “hundreds of thousands,” said Burke. Last year, they welcomed well over four million people. Future preservation and recreation needs will drive the work of Superintendent George Price as he works with various groups, on federal and local levels, in steering the park’s future.
“We usually see about three feet of beach erosion per year, but the prediction is that, with climate change, we could have a more dramatic increase,” said Price. With an admittedly aging infrastructure, growing visitor usage and a constantly fluctuating shoreline, Price and his crews carefully consider all future plans, such as the replacement of the bathhouse at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.
“The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood map is being used to look at storm surge future projection,” said Price about plans for the new facility. “It will be raised off the ground and a modular design that can be deconstructed and moved, giving us decades of use and allowing it to be moved two or three times over its lifetime.”
“It’s not just our responsibility to preserve this amazing resource, we all have to take care of it,” Price explained, reflecting on the Cape Cod National Seashore’s stewardship of the vast, and vastly beautiful, space.
If you go:
- Salt Pond Visitor Center, 50 Doane Road, Eastham, 508-255-3421
- Province Lands Visitor Center, Race Point Road, Provincetown, 508-487-1256
- Website: www.nps.gov/caco