Shifting sands shift plans for Cape Cod beach parking lot
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. (AP) — The popular waterfront parking lot at Herring Cove Beach will be rebuilt farther inland than planned due to an emerging “hot spot” of erosion that is expected to last several years at least.
But the construction project can’t come too soon for a local tourism leader who says the disintegrating parking lot has begun to take an economic toll.
“Many visitors start their trip to Provincetown spending the day at the beach, and then later spending time in town,” Provincetown Tourism Director Anthony Fuccillo said. “The latter part of the day in Provincetown is negatively affected if the beach parking isn’t available.”
The Cape Cod National Seashore’s $3.3 million reconstruction of the northern 208-space parking lot kicked off Oct. 17. But changes must be made to plans developed in 2013 due to coastal conditions in the area that have led to rapid erosion on the northernmost end of the proposed lot, according to Seashore Superintendent Brian Carlstom. The completion date of the project is this spring, according to a sign at the beach, although no apparent work was underway Jan. 2 due to the federal government shutdown.
In the past decade, winter storms have torn up pavement, covered parking spaces with sand, and loosened and pocked a seawall. Due to public pressure, though, the Seashore continued to repair the lot each summer at a cost of $300,000 to $500,000 annually. The construction now underway is meant to stop that outflow of repair money for at least 20 years, Carlstrom said in December.
“We don’t want to continue that yearly,” he said of the spending on repairs.
Herring Cove Beach is the most popular of the Seashore’s six life-guarded beaches, and the northern parking lot has for decades allowed visitors to drive up and park at the beach’s edge. That is compared with the larger, southern parking lot, which is shielded from winter storms by dunes. The beach typically has about 850,000 visitors each year but that count has dropped into the mid-500,000 range in each of the past two years, according to National Park Service records.
That dip in visitation numbers has caught the attention of Fuccillo and others.
The town’s 2017 Tourism Economy Report flagged “infrastructure” as having a direct effect on the drop in visitation at Herring Cove and on the growth of visitation at the Seashore’s Race Point Beach, which is about three miles north.
“Visitors will choose to visit destinations with ease of parking and ease of ability to navigate and move about the community,” according to the report’s summary.
Parking in Provincetown is a commodity throughout the year, Fuccillo said.
“There just isn’t enough,” he said.
When the planning was completed five years ago to move the northern parking lot inland, the Seashore expected the investment would last 50 years, according to the environmental assessment. In that assessment, the long and narrow lot was to be replicated 125 feet inland and rebuilt 15 feet higher.
Now, with the old pavement and seawall largely washed away or removed, the shoreline is reinstating its natural contours, leading to a temporary high rate of erosion in a specific area, according to a Dec. 4 letter from Carlstrom to the Provincetown Conservation Commission.
“The design of the project will remain the same,” Carlstrom wrote.
But given the emerging hot spot, the lot will be moved 50 feet farther inland, with a 150-foot pivot inland on the northernmost end to specifically accommodate the hot spot. Ultimately, the new parking lot will be parallel to the mean high water line, he said.
Province Lands Road, to the west, will also be moved farther inland an equivalent distance, he said.
Both Carlstrom and the Seashore’s geographic information systems analyst Mark Adams have mentioned a 20-year lifespan for the parking lot rather than the 50 years stated in the environmental assessment. The hot spot at Herring Cove Beach stems from developing conditions as Hatches Harbor, to the north, Adams told the conservation commission on Dec. 18. At that meeting, commission members granted the Seashore’s request for an amended order of conditions for the relocation of the parking lot.
The parking lot reconstruction project is the largest of about $10 million in capital improvements projects currently planned or underway across the Seashore.
Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com