History

After The Call, Cape Cod Fighter Pilots Patrolled The Skies

By Sean Corcoran   |   Tuesday, September 6, 2011
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A Story of Survival

Monday, August 29, 2011
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Nature In Balance: The National Seashore Looks Forward

By Sean Corcoran   |   Thursday, August 11, 2011
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Aug. 11, 2011

The natural vistas of the Cape Cod National Seashore are the result of federal agreements made in the 1960s. Many visitors like the spareness, though some have moved to develop bigger houses and businesses than what's legally allowed. (lizkdc/Flickr)


WOODS HOLE, Mass. — When the negotiations were complete, when the concerns of businesses, residents and politicians were settled and President John Kennedy signed the legislation to establish the Cape Cod National Seashore on August 7, 1961, the hard work of creating the Seashore park and protecting its ecosystem began in earnest.

Roger Higgin was a 19-year-old Park Service intern in the Seashore's maintenance department in 1968, before eventually becoming a full-fledged park ranger.

"When I first started, I thought the whole job was planting beach grass. The first spring, all we did was dig beach grass, and we would haul it down to Wellfleet, and they were planting around the headquarters at that time," Higgin said. "We spent months, right up until the beginning of summer, planting beach grass."

But beach-grass planting wasn't the only activity ongoing in the early years of the park. Higgin, who is now the park manager of the Cape Cod Canal, said trails were under construction for bicycles, horses and off-road vehicles. Efforts also were underway to protect certain animal life whose dwindling numbers threatened extinction. That work continues today, as each summer trails and beach lands are closed to protect a small, orange-legged bird called the piping plover.

In 1968, it was terns the rangers had to watch out for.

"We had a tern warden, and they would go out and do the same thing you do now for a piping plover, they would get the nest, and they would monitor the tern, and keep vehicles out, like you do now with the piping plover," Higgin said.

Throughout the Seashore's history, conflicts between people and nature, as well as between government, visitors and residents, have cropped up from time to time. And a look back at the park's history indicates that it's hard to predict just what those conflicts will be.

In the mid-1970s, for example, the Seashore experienced something of a crisis, Higgin said, when nude sun-bathing was the rage.

"I remember a nude-in at the Herring Cove Beach, and you could fill the parking lot," Higgin said. "It was a national scene. We're talking big-time trouble."

It wasn't the nudity that was the real concern, Higgin said, but the impact of having thousands of spectators trampling over fragile dune areas. In the end, the Park Service curved the practice with vigilant law enforcement and lots of citations.

But other issues emerged, including troubles with zoning rules. The original deal between the federal government and the six local towns called for the towns to enact strict zoning legislation to govern the 600 homes within the park boundaries and to limit their expansion. But Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent George Price said it's now apparent that not every community made the zoning changes.

"We have been around for all these years trying to maintain the Cape Cod character, as it is described, and yet there are others who are new to the Cape who come in and would like to see how a large mansion -- that is their definition of a dream house on the beach. So it will be interesting to see how this plays over the next 50 years," Price said.

The very fact that communities involved in the Seashore did not make the zoning changes came as something of a surprise, Price said.

"I think people thought the legislation was pretty self evident, and I thought there was a common understanding of what should be in place, and that obviously is not the case," Price said.

Orleans resident Jonathan Moore was a Congressional aide to Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, who helped negotiate the park agreement with local select boards in the late 1950s and early 1960s. That deal included the creation of a community advisory board to work with the Park Service on local issues. Moore said that going forward, there will be more conflicts, but a system is in place to deal with them.

"My basic answer is: hold on for dear life," Moore said said. "There will be more challenges and more conflict. But the base is so strongly structured.

After all, Moore said, it's lasted 50 years. "It's held on and its succeeded so well, that infrastructure, both political and legal and social, is a lot of tenacity, a lot of endurance. I can't predict what the challenges will be, but saidI hope not expediently, but nearly expediently, the efforts to protect this peninsula are going to get tougher, not weaker," Moore said.

The creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore was something of a grand experiment in federal land preservation. The Park Service had never taken over a populated area like Cape Cod, and the effort took compromise and determination on all sides.

Today, there's general agreement that the experiment was a success. And its the very recognition of the park's value to Cape Cod's character and its economy that supporters say will see it through the next 50 years.

The Great Inca Rebellion

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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Industrial Design in Waltham

By Arthur Smith   |   Monday, July 25, 2011
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Off the beaten track. 

Everybody knows about the Lowell Mills, but how many recall that Waltham was once "Watch City," the U.S. center of the trade, and so efficient in fact that it awed Henry Ford. The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation celebrates this past with exhibits on watches and clocks, textiles, a temporary exhibit entited "Virtual Kinetics, and the Art of the Image" focusing on the work of Dave Gordon, an artist who draws inspiration from Eadweard Mybridge's pioneering photos of motion.

If you go: The museum is on Moody Street in Waltham, open Thursday-Sunday, 10-5, and is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors or students. More info at www.crmi.org or by calling 781-893-5410.

Students Follow In Freedom Riders' Footsteps

By Phillip Martin   |   Monday, May 9, 2011
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About the Authors
Arthur Smith Arthur Smith
Arthur Smith is the former editor of WGBHArts. Executive producer for digital education at WGBH, Arthur, an amateur pianist and singer, was previously a freelance classical music reviewer for the Washington Post for 9 years. He has also worked at an opera company, and ran the information service and publications programs for OPERA America, the national service organization for the art form.  Since 1991, he has been the program annotator for Vocal Arts DC, a classical song recital series based at Washington's Kennedy Center. 
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at liftedveils.org.

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