Homeowners on Cape Cod battle sea and town
Pointing to a spot on his map where Holway Street reaches Chatham's eastern shoreline, Doug Wells, chairman of this town's conservation commission, said that the sea had come up to that point before, in 1875.
''Now it's back again,'' he said, ''and so is the bitter argument over what, if anything, should be done to stop it and who should do it.''
The spot he marked was half a block inland, well behind a line of Cape-style houses that are now in danger of toppling into the sea. #9 Houses Threatened A week ago Thursday one of those houses did slide down the six-foot-high bank between it and the sea, and had to be destroyed. At high tide, water has already swept under the front porch of the house on one side of where the first house stood and is cutting away at the small concrete patio of the one on the other side.
The threatened loss of these homes and at least seven others nearby has started a new round in the conflict between beachfront property owners all along the Atlantic Seaboard and the Federal, state and local officials responsible for shoreline protection.
Here in Chatham, 10 owners of houses between Andrew Hardings Lane and Watch Hill Road have formed a group, the Beach Reclamation Enactment Association of Chatham Harbor.
On Wednesday, the group filed a $10 million damage suit in Barnstable Superior Court. The owners assert that officials in charge of state coastal management did not plan adequately for the protection of their shoreline and knowingly hindered them in their efforts to do it themselves.
On Thursday, members of the group appeared before the Chatham Conservation Commission asking to build a much more elaborate sea wall below their property. The commissioners, in turn, asked for further details on the design and for a determination of what part of the beach was classified as dune and what was considered a bank. If a new wall is finally approved by the town and state, it will cost the group at least $250,000 to build.
In mid-December, the commission, with support of state environmental and coastal zone management officials, denied the group permission to dump boulders along the water line in front of their houses. The commissioners said that might damage the shoreline to the north and south.
Two weeks later the group went to court and won permission to dump the boulders if its members posted a $100,000 bond to insure removing the boulders if they could not work out a permanent plan with the state and town officials.
Immediately afterward, a construction company began dropping the boulders about 10 yards in front of the bank on which the houses are perched. Additional boulders have been emplaced since, and the owners have now spent an estimated $145,000 in this desperate effort to stabilize their property.
The trouble in Chatham began 13 months ago when a wild storm and high tides broke through North Beach opposite Water Street and Chatham Light. Two weeks later, a subsequent storm had widened this beach and scooped out a channel 20 feet deep... NY Times.
Helped free Cape Cod Mashpees
On this day in 1798, a Pequot Indian named William Apess was born in Colrain, a village in western Massachusetts.
Although his childhood was marked by poverty and abuse, he did learn to read and write.
After converting to Christianity, he became a traveling preacher. He sought to convert other Indians to Christianity and wanted white people to recognize Indians as equal members of the family of God. In his 30s, he moved to Cape Cod, where he helped the Mashpee Indians regain a measure of self-government.
William Apess published five books, including an autobiography. In 1837, he disappeared from the historical record. Like most native people of the time, he became invisible. Fortunately, his published words survive.
Billionaire philanthropist, art collector and thoroughbred racer
On this day in 1999, Paul Mellon, son of financier Andrew W. Mellon, died at his residence in Oak Spring, Va., at age 91. Remembered mainly as a billionaire philanthropist, art collector and thoroughbred racer - his "Mill Reef" won the Kentucky Derby in 1971 - Mellon's legacy extends further and closer to home.
As reported by The Boston Globe on Feb. 13, 1999:
"The story goes that Paul Mellon was dismayed to discover that his Oyster Harbors home was lacking in what he considered a sufficient number of sand dunes. So he brought in 2,000 tons of sand from the north shore of Cape Cod and built his own dunes.
"Then he went one giant step further: He helped to create the Cape Cod National Seashore ... In Massachusetts, his legacy is 44,000 acres of pristine beach, wind-blown dunes, and wild sandy bluffs that literally define a much-loved corner of the state.
"Mellon, along with other key leaders, 'foresaw that they had a last chance to protect and preserve for the future one of the most significant natural and cultural resources in the US,' said Mike Whatley, a supervisory park ranger with the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham.
" 'They literally snatched it from the hands of developers,' Whatley said, 'and at the same time left many charming, compatible communities intact' ..."
" ... In 1956, a consortium of foundations supported by Mellon published 'The Vanishing Shoreline,' a report highlighting the significance of coastline territory and detailing runaway development that threatened to change it forever. It also identified key sites that should be included in the national park system.
"At the top of the list was a swath of land from Provincetown to Chatham, then known mainly as 'The Great Beach of Cape Cod' ..."
Other seashore advocates included Congressman Hastings Keith, Senators Leverett Saltonstall and John F. Kennedy and future governor Frank Sargent.
On Aug. 7, 1961, President Kennedy signed the law limiting development on the Outer Cape and creating the Cape Cod National Seashore, the nation's first. An editorial that month in The Berkshire Eagle described the new law as "the finest victory ever recorded for the cause of conservation in New England."
(Portrait of Mellon, www.vahistorical.org)
This day in 2007, Foster's Daily Democrat reported that the scrap metal and salt operations at the Port of New Hampshire are not the best use of the property, according to Pease Development Authority Executive Director Dick Green.
"There are some of us that feel there's a higher and more appropriate use than what it's being used for," Green said Tuesday.
If a majority of the board feels the same way as Green, some combination of container cargo, ferries or cruise ships could replace the industrial uses at the Market Street terminal in the coming years... (State Rep Laura) Pantelakos, a vocal critic of port operations, said she is thrilled by the potential change in direction at the port.
"I think that's certainly going to help a lot of people. It will create jobs," the Portsmouth Democrat said. She said she would like to see a ferry service started to Cape Cod and said without the salt or scrap there would be a lot of "laydown area" for cargo.