As Season Approaches, Changes Planned For National Seashore

By: Ed Maroney

The waves are eager to climb the dwindling dune protecting town facilities at Nauset Beach. ED MARONEY PHOTO

It will cost you more to park at a Cape Cod National Seashore beach this summer, and less—in fact, nothing—to participate in ranger-led programs.

“The fee increase (from $20 to $25 for vehicles) has been in the work for three years,” Superintendent Brian Carlstrom said Tuesday in a phone interview. “This is the year we’re implementing it. It’s being rolled out across the National Park Service.”

He said the Seashore reviewed the programs it was offering and found that “many of those weren’t all that cost-efficient with fees. We determined it was more efficient not to charge anything. It costs more money to collect the fees; we really weren’t bringing in a net benefit to the Park.”

Carlstrom said the Seashore’s “budget has been pretty consistent, in the high $7 million range, over a long period of time.” While that translates to “decreasing buying power” over time, he said there are no plans for overall staff cutbacks.

“We’re changing positions to meet the highest-priority needs,” he said. “We’re trying to manage the park as best we possibly can with the fiscal resources we are allocated, all the while providing access to the public while protecting the natural and cultural resources.”

He has “no expectation whatsover” that the changes will affect tourism adversely. “We’re still going to be offering programs. We’re utilizing the knowledge we have to continue to provide programs. We’re doing a lot of things to improve our facilities.”

Carlstrom said “a lot of projects are wrapping up, and some are starting up. Probably the biggest is the Highland Light tower being closed for renovation. We’re reestablishing ventilation in it, and putting a new coating on it so the masonry can breathe, and new glass.” Ground-level facilities will remain open.

The Coast Guard building in Eastham will get a new roof, new siding, a refurbished fire escape, and windows. Accessibility will be improved at the Province Lands Visitor Center and there’ll be a new walkway out to the Old Harbor Lifesaving station in Provincetown. The Atlantic white cedar swamp connecting trail in Wellfleet should be fixed up by July 4.

“There’s a lot of good work happening at the Seashore,” Carlstrom said.

The superintendent was contacted after Art Autorino, a Seashore volunteer and member of the Eastham Finance Committee, raised concerns at a joint meeting of the committee and the select board Monday. In a phone interview Tuesday, Rich Delaney, the last chair of the “sunseted” Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission, said his board would likely have had discussions with administrators about the changes and been helpful in gauging public reaction. The commission’s federal authorization expired in 2018 and has not been renewed.

“Ordinarily, the superintendent would have briefed us on what they’re required to do,” Delaney said. “This is a sad illustration of how much we are missing this forum. I know they have to deal with some budget issues this year, but I don’t know the details.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved reauthorization of the seashore commission through 2029, and senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren filed a similar bill (S.508) in their chamber last month. There’s been a hearing by the subcommittee on national parks and a vote by that body is imminent, according to Delaney.

“I’m trying to round up some select board support, and town managers to encourage the committee to pass the legislation,” he said. “Senator Markey is working very hard to push it through on that level, but we need voices from the community—elected officials, users of the park—to all say we need this legislation so the commission can get back in action.” (Chatham’s select board agreed Monday to send a letter in support; see Town Hall Action column.)

Markey’s legislative aide Claire Richer is in charge of forwarding public comment to the Senate subcommittee. The senator’s office address is 255 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510 and the phone number is 202-224-2742.