Friday, Aug 12, 2011
With the stroke of a pen in 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Cape Cod National Seashore Act, an innovative and unprecedented approach to the conservation of a remarkably beautiful and historically rich area. This momentous occasion was the culmination of many years of planning and negotiations.
On August 7th, park staff, partners, neighbors, and visitors celebrated the 50th anniversary of the national seashore’s establishment. The day’s events included retrospective ranger programs like those offered in the early 1960s. Retired ranger and current volunteer, Dave Spang, conducted two of the programs he provided for visitors in 1963. Postmasters from Provincetown and Eastham were on hand for special postal cancellations at Province Lands and Salt Pond Visitor Centers. At Salt Pond the Eastham postmaster marked over 1,000 cards and envelopes for visitors.
Outer Cape musicians Zoe Lewis, Peter Donnelly, Tim Sweeney, and Roe Osborn played toe-tapping tunes (including Patti Page’s “Old Cape Cod”) and sing-alongs. “Happy Birthday” and cake at noon marked the time that President Kennedy signed the bill in 1961. Judging by the amount of cake that was served, over 200 people at Province Lands and over 400 people at Salt Pond were on hand for remarks by Congressman William Keating, Superintendent George Price, and Deputy Superintendent Kathy Tevyaw. A proclamation was presented by the Provincetown Board of Selectmen, proclaiming August 7, 2011 Cape Cod National Seashore Day in Provincetown.
The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, in partnership with PEN New England and the National Park Service, hosted readings of Cape Cod classics by celebrated authors Joe Finder, Alice Hoffman, Kermit Moyer, Richard Russo, Rebecca Goldstein, Dale Peterson, Steven Pinker, and Pamela Painter. Senator Paul Kirk served as master of ceremonies. In 2001-2010 Kirk filled the vacancy created by the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
U.S. Congressman William Keating and Superintendent George Price commemorated the anniversary by remarking on the diversity of the national seashore’s cultural and natural resources, the foresight shown by those legislators and the public who worked to establish the national seashore in 1961, and our collective responsibility to take the long view, instead of making short-sighted decisions as we consider the next 50 years.
Other activities included a wreath laying and ceremony for lifesavers and lighthouse keepers as part of National Lighthouse Day at Highland Lighthouse (a park concessioner); open houses at historic structures; time capsule and shorebird activities for families; and a concert featuring soul/blues artist Shemekia Copeland.
The national seashore has been celebrating the 50th anniversary throughout the year. Commemorative rotating exhibits have been installed at Salt Pond Visitor Center, and a traveling exhibit was developed for display at many Outer Cape museums and libraries. A new permanent exhibit interpreting Wampanoag culture was developed in consultation with the Wampanoag Tribe, and opened in May. Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore is hosting the on-line album where visitors can upload their seashore memories and photographs, and also developed an information scavenger hunt. Upcoming events include a science fair and symposium hosted by the park’s science staff; an employee and alumni weekend beginning September 16th; the exhibition of 50 national seashore-inspired quilts; a rededication event for the newly-furnished Old Harbor Life-Saving Station; and participation in the Town of’ Eastham’s annual parade, which has the 50th anniversary as this year’s theme.
Throughout the anniversary year, the message conveyed to visitors and park neighbors is that the commitment made to establish the park 50 year ago needs to be carried into the future as we collectively rededicate ourselves to ensuring that Cape Cod National Seashore remains one of our nation’s greatest gifts to future generations.