Long list of rules govern beachgoers' activity on Cape Cod
Jun. 20, 2016
HYANNIS, Mass. (AP) — When you're headed out to Cape beaches, there are signs — some big, some small, some with so much type they could be a book — that the fun has been taken out of the sun.
The dog days of summer? Fuggedaboutit. Rover loses to plover, every time.
Go fly a kite? There are strings attached.
Play ball? You can catch rays but not a Wilson.
Grab a floatie or a boogie board? Um, boogie (boards) might as well have died with disco.
Cape beaches have a long of list of nos, but none more prevalent than South Cape Beach in Mashpee where the list is as long as the wait to get into Old Silver Beach in Falmouth on a hot Saturday.
Mashpee is so fixated on making sure you know the nos that its sign is located at the entrance to South Cape Beach, the "nos" are capitalized and the universal symbol of no is in red.
Thinking of skinny dipping? There is a separate sign prohibiting nudity on the beach.
And if you like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape? Well, love that's been looked for, you're about 40 years late. No one is allowed on the dunes on any beach and for good reason. The Cape is losing precious sand to nor'easters and other coastal storms at an alarming rate and having people traipse across dunes just adds to that.
"We're not trying to be the no-fun police, but every action causes a reaction," said Dustin Pineau, beach supervisor at Dennis public beaches where the list of don'ts reaches an epic 24.
Many of the rules and regulations, from Provincetown to Monument Beach, are talked about among beach managers, Pineau said.
They're common sense because beachgoers don't always use that when their toes hit the sand.
At Craigville Beach in Centerville on the first picture-perfect beach day of the young summer, Joe and Chanda Martinez of Philadelphia were tossing a baseball, the ball causing an audible thwack as it smacked the leather of their gloves. A few feet away, a sign on the vacant lifeguard stand listed ball playing as strictly prohibited.
"I wouldn't have ever thought that was a rule," said Chanda, as she returned to her beach chair. "I'm a rule follower. I feel bad now."
But several beach managers said the rules are there for young lifeguards to enforce only if needed.
"Our lifeguards are directed to use discretion," said Mary K. Bradbury, recreation director in Mashpee. "If there's two people on a beach on an overcast day, we're not going to stop them from playing ball. It's a common sense thing."
There's that phrase again, common sense.
Josh and Caleb Hubbard, twin 17-year-old high school seniors from Utah visiting Sandy Neck Beach, were surprised to learn about beach rules against things like tossing a Frisbee.
"I like to do that kind of stuff at the beach," Josh said. "I don't see the reasoning for (the rules)."
"The beach is supposed to be a great, fun time," his brother said.
Both Bradbury and Pineau acknowledge it's a tough spot to put lifeguards in, many of them either high school or college-age kids. Translation, they're about the same age as those most likely to break the rules.
In both Mashpee and Dennis, there are older beach personnel who can step in if they get pushback and, if necessary, they'll call in police.
"I would say 97 percent of the people are respectful and are those conscientious beachgoers who are understanding of enjoying the beach," Bradbury said. "I remind the (lifeguards), I don't need you in a confrontation. Be polite, be respectful."
Bradbury has gotten a lot of pushback for restrictions on umbrellas and tents. The restrictions are both for safety and space considerations, she said, and are only enforced when it's either windy or crowded.
And if you don't think the safety issue is real, a woman was killed earlier this month at Virginia Beach when a wind gust launched an umbrella toward her and struck her in the chest, according to published reports.
Some people have gotten the wrong impression about the ban on umbrellas and tents, Bradbury said. "We're not talking about the types of small tents used to keep a baby out of the sun," she said.
On the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, which stretch from Eastham to Provincetown, the rules appear less restrictive and, unlike most Cape beaches, leashed pets are allowed even during the summer months. Though on a recent visit to Coast Guard Beach, there was an area posted as being restricted from pets because of, wait for it, nesting birds. There goes plover trumping rover, again.
Jim Baptist, owner of Seaberry Surf in South Wellfleet, a shop that basically sells many of the items on the banned list at beaches, said he's never had someone return an item because they went to the beach and weren't permitted to use it.
"We let people know that they don't allow floats on the ocean side," said Baptist, whose shop is actually nicknamed the "Floatie Store" because so many are tacked up to the sides and roof of the building.
Baptist doesn't know all of the rules and regulations at local beaches, even though it's his target audience. "I rarely go to the beach because I'm always here," he said with a laugh.
Getting back to the beach and nudity, not only does Dennis have a rule against nudity at its beaches, it goes on to specify, "gender-appropriate bathing suits or clothing are required at all times."
Asked how that rule can be in place at a time when legislators are debating access to restrooms for transgender individuals, Pineau was initially stumped. "Basically gender-appropriate to us means you're wearing a bathing suit," he said.
The additional wording was put in to target foreign visitors who back in their home country might find it perfectly acceptable to only wear one half of a bikini. "We trying to avoid having people nude sunbathing," he said.
There is something you can do with reckless abandon at every beach on Cape Cod and at Marconi Beach, Jeet Sandhu and his family from Ridgefield, Connecticut, were doing it.
"It's relaxation, everybody gets a book," Sandhu said as he read, "Why Kosovo Still Matters," a tome he picked up because his daughter, Morgan, 20, is headed there to study with a Dartmouth College global studies program. "It's escapist."
Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com