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National Park Service Finalizes Dune Shack Historic District Preservation and Use Plan

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Date: June 8, 2012
Contact: George Price, Superintendent, 508-771-2144

On May 18, 2012 National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach approved the Dune Shack Historic District Preservation and Use Plan/Environmental Assessment/Assessment of Effect (plan/EA/AoE). This decision finalizes several years of public meetings and planning by Cape Cod National Seashore staff, the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission's Dune Shack Subcommittee, dune dwellers, non-profit organizations, representatives from the towns of Truro and Provincetown, and community members. In addition 122 comments were received from the public and considered during the EA development.

The Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, located within Cape Cod National Seashore, was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and was formally listed on March 15, 2012. The historic district contains approximately 1,900 acres including both the historic buildings (dune shacks) and the dune landscape. Eighteen of the nineteen dune shacks are owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and are currently occupied by different groups and individuals under a variety of administrative instruments, such as leases, permits, and agreements.

The Preservation and Use Plan provides guidance for preserving the dune shack structures and the cultural and natural landscapes, and for maintaining the district's historic connection to the development of art and literature in America, as well as the cultural significance of living and sharing the dune experience, traditions, stories, and memories.

The plan describes stewardship, access, and occupancy of the historic district. The public will continue to have access to the historic district on foot, with vehicle tour operators, and on guided ranger programs. Non-profit groups will continue to provide programs, such as art and writing residencies, and opportunities for overnight stays by the general public. Off-district venues, such as park visitor centers and art galleries will be used to communicate the historic district's values to the public. To perpetuate historic district traditions, private residential use will continue under the NPS competitive leasing program. Many of the existing occupancy instruments for the shacks have expired over the last several years, and the national seashore has renewed them in the short-term pending this plan. It is now anticipated that a number of new agreements and leases will be initiated in the coming year. 

Periods of occupancy by individuals and non-profit groups will range from three to twenty years depending on the type of administrative instrument selected. The objective is to achieve a balanced mix of uses, in which approximately 40% of the shacks will be used as private residences; 40% will be used programmatically by non-profits; and the remaining 20% will be allocated to either category. Individuals or groups that occupy the shacks will continue to perform preservation maintenance, and the plan prescribes maintenance practices for the historic buildings and the landscape. The addition of amenities, such as solar panels, septic systems, and electricity will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The park superintendent will be responsible for making decisions for the historic district, and a standing subcommittee of the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission will assist the National Park Service in carrying out the plan.

Plan development benefited from the experiences shared by dune dwellers and community members, in addition to several significant research documents, including Robert Wolfe's Dwelling in the Dunes: Traditional Use of the Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, Cape Cod, the draft Historic Structures Report, and the recently completed National Register nomination and Cultural Landscape Report.

The approval document signed by Regional Director Reidenbach is called a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI explains why the selected action will have no significant effects on the human environment, public health, public safety, threatened or endangered species, and sites or districts listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. It states the selected alternative, other alternatives considered, and criteria that were used and how they were weighed in the selection process. The FONSI is based on the EA and comments of agencies and the public. During the public review of this EA, the NPS received 45 comments from interested individuals.

The FONSI is posted to the Cape Cod National Seashore website, www.nps.gov/caco. Print copies of the Plan/EA/AoE were distributed to Provincetown and Truro town halls and libraries in 2011. The plan is also posted to the National Seashore website.

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Did You Know?

Three Sisters Lighthouses, Eastham

Because of coastal erosion of 3 feet a year, the sea has threatened historical landmarks over the years. A few examples of those moved back from the edge include the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, the Three Sisters, Nauset, and Highland Lights, and the French Cable Hut.