Cape Cod National Seashore Turns 50 This Year

From the dunescapes of Race Point near Provincetown to Highland Light in North Truro and down to Nauset Beach the 50th birthday of Cape Cod National Seashore will be celebrated this year. Top photo by Kurt Repanshek, bottom photo NPS.

It was 50 years ago that, in a move one newspaper ventured could rightly be called "the finest victory ever recorded for the cause of conservation in New England," that President John F. Kennedy created Cape Cod National Seashore.

While the president's actual signing of the enabling legislation won't be officially celebrated until August 7, seashore staff and partners already are planning a year-long celebration on the Cape.

This month there will be an exhibition by the Eastham Painters' Guild and a film series focused around the national seashore, both at the Salt Pond Visitors Center, while a pictorial anniversary book, Images of America, Cape Cod National Seashore, The First 50 Years, written by Daniel Lombardo, was released last year.

"The designation of Cape Cod as a national seashore by President Kennedy was a gift to all the American people," Superintendent George Price said in a release. "This milestone provides an opportunity for all who love this special place to reflect on where we've been and to commit to what we collectively hope to achieve to ensure that the values of the National Seashore are protected and appreciated in perpetuity."

When President Kennedy signed the bill authorizing the establishment of the National Seashore on August 7, 1961, he mentioned how significant it was to "preserve the natural and historic values of a portion of Cape Cod for the inspiration and enjoyment of people all over the United States." The Berkshire Eagle, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, editorialized that the bill "…can probably be labeled the finest victory ever recorded for the cause of conservation in New England."

Several celebratory activities are planned for 2011, according to seashore officials. The Eastham Painters' Guild, which turns 30 in 2011, will kick off the year with a gallery exhibition at Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Cape Cod National Seashore through the Eyes of the Artist is the first of many exhibits that will showcase the art, literature, history, and science of the national seashore, seashore officials said. Other exhibitors will include photographer Christopher Seufert, the Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod, national seashore science staff, Nauset High School art students, the Outer Cape Artists in Residency Consortium, and the Provincetown Community Compact.

The National Seashore's Annual Winter Film Series begins January 16. Films that were released in 1961 will be shown to provide a popular culture context for the year the National Seashore was established. In spring, new permanent exhibits at Salt Pond Visitor Center will be dedicated.

When Old Harbor Life-Saving Station opens in May it will be furnished much as it was in 1900, thanks to an on-going fundraising campaign by Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore. During summer "retro" programs, park visitors and neighbors will step back in time for a look at the kinds of ranger-led programs that were offered in 1963. The 2011 issue of Park News will feature in-depth articles reflecting on the past and contemplating the future of the National Seashore.

The national seashore's education partner, Eastern National, is developing several interpretive items that will be available at Salt Pond and Province Lands bookstores. Look for pins and patches, decals, and drinking glasses.