National Seashore Reflects on JFK's Centennial

Legacy of JFK signing Cape Cod National Seashore into law
President Kennedy signs Cape Cod National Seashore into law

From the Cape Cod National Seashore:

On this Memorial Day we also commemorate the centennial of the birth of President Kennedy, born in Brookline, MA on May 29, 1917. In 1961 he signed into law Cape Cod National Seashore, forever preserving its glistening beaches and rich salt marshes, forested woodlands and wild cranberry bogs, and its stories of people. This stands as one of President Kennedy’s most enduring gifts to our nation.

President Kennedy once said, "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea...we are going back from whence we came." His love for the ocean, whether in his DNA or developed during summers on Cape Cod, had a profound influence on his conservation legacy. Following the establishment of Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, Kennedy proceeded to establish Point Reyes National Seashore in CA and Padre Island National Seashore in TX in 1962.

The establishment of the national seashore in 1961 was not an easy victory. The idea of a seashore park stretching from Duxbury to Provincetown was conceived in the 1930s, as New Englanders witnessed the development of other areas on the Eastern seaboard, from Miami Beach to the Jersey shore. They feared that commercialization and privatization of the coastline would march northward and forever alter the character of Cape Cod. A steep challenge faced those visionaries. The Outer Cape was heavily settled, with six thriving towns founded some 300 years earlier. This was not just a stretch of shoreline; it was home. The overlay of federal management upon these unique and independent towns required unprecedented consideration and compromise that would form the basis for preserving other national parks in the future. 

President Kennedy envisioned public lands as places where Americans could disconnect from life’s stress, and reconnect to what is important; places to reflect and recreate; areas where complex natural systems and communities of people not only co-exist, but thrive. Today, the rich stories of more than 400 national parks are revealed to new generations of citizens who are carrying forward the conservation torch. 

Upon signing the legislation, President Kennedy said, “This act makes it possible for the people of the United States 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.” In this spirit, we invite you to come stand on the Great Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore to contemplate and appreciate this gift that President Kennedy deeded to us, to our children, and to future generations, forevermore.

President Kennedy's birthplace in Brookline is also a national park-- John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on