July 31 - 1989: Beach drivers claim a victory in battle with Cape Cod National Seashore Park

1888: Water spout seen off Cape Cod
Off-road vehicle owners win over Washington. Cape Cod TODAY photo.

1989: Sudden transfer of park superintendent hailed by Off-Road Vehicle owners

Long controversy over vehicles on the CCNSP beaches ends

On this day in 1989, beach drivers claimed a victory in a Cape Cod Battle with the National Seashore.  The users of off-road vehicles claimed victory here after the disclosure of the sudden transfer of the superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

The report went on to state that environmental groups have deplored the reassignment of the superintendent, Herbert Olsen. National Park Service officials in Washington insisted the transfer was in no way connected with a long controversy over driving off-road vehicles on the seashore's beaches, a practice that environmentalists see as a cause of beach erosion and a threat to wildlife.  Sport fishermen on Cape Cod, who have been demanding for four years that more of the national seashore's beach be opened to their four-wheel-drive trucks, vans, station wagons and cars, were jubilant over the news that Mr. Olsen, who drafted the current rules on the vehicles, is scheduled to leave Aug. 13 to take charge of Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania.

They link the transfer of Mr. Olsen, who has many supporters among Cape Cod residents, with recent high-level Interior Department proposals to double the amount of beaches open to vehicles.

Mr. Olsen denounced his transfer as ''punishment'' when he announced it to his staff last Monday. Sources in Washington said Andrew Ringgold, a career officer now serving in the Washington headquarters, would be his successor at Cape Cod.

Revenge Motive Is Seen

Sherrill B. Smith of Orleans, Mass., a longtime member of the local National Seashore Advisory Commission, said there was ''no question'' that the sport fishermen who head the off-road vehicle organizations had ''sought revenge'' against Mr. Olsen.

''They are certainly taking credit for his transfer,'' he said, ''whether or not it may be entirely coincidental.''

National Park officials in Washington said Friday that Allan Fitzsimmons, an assistant to Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. had been urging ''for some time'' a return to the old regulations that allowed the use of vehicles along 17 of the 50 miles of Cape Cod beach that the National Park Service controls.

These officials conceded that the timing of Mr. Olsen's transfer was ''unfortunate'' because it comes in mid-season and follows several boisterous demonstrations on the Fourth of July holiday by owners of off-road vehicle.

In informing his staff of the transfer, Mr. Olson said it was ''unreasonable, unacceptable and unwarranted,'' according to The Cape Cod Times in Hyannis.

Mr. Olsen could not be reached for an interview, but he was quoted in the Cape Cod Times as saying: ''If a man continues to do an outstanding job, why move him, especially when a number of critical issues here need resolution in the next few months or years?'' He added, ''The reassignment amounts to punishment,'' the paper reported.

George Berklacy, chief of public affairs for the Park Service, said: ''Herb Olsen's transfer was not a punitive measure. It follows our plan, instituted two years ago, to move park superintendents around after they have served 10 years in a park. Herb Olsen has been in charge of the Cape Cod National Seashore for 11 years, serving with distinction during that time.''

In the past three years, Mr. Berklacy said, Mr. Olsen had been offered two other Park Service posts of equal or higher rank than the Cape Cod job and had refused them. Now there was an opening at Valley Forge, he said, and the Park Service's mid-Atlantic regional supervisor had personally asked that Mr. Olsen fill it.

Susan Nickerson, executive director of the Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod, said the transfer sent the message that a small special-interest group like the vehicle users could influence park policy. ''It is very disconcerting when a group that is often in conflict with conservation interests can orchestrate that kind of change of personnel.''

Mr. Fitzsimmons and Mr. Ringgold could not be reached for comment.

Most of the Cape Cod National Seashore lies along the eastern side of the Cape, stretching from Chatham past Provincetown. Nearly 5 million people visit its clean, wide beaches and enjoy the big surf each year. Some of the best striped bass fishing in the world is off these beaches.

For nearly 20 years after the Cape Cod National Seashore was created, surf-casting fishermen were free to roam most of its shore in beach vehicles.

But in 1981, as popularity put more pressures on the park, the Park Service, through Mr. Olsen, ordered vehicles restricted to a 17-mile stretch in Truro and Provincetown. The sports fisherman protested immediately, while environmental groups, who had been critical of Mr. Olsen for not acting sooner, cheered.

In 1985, after a suit by environmental protection groups, a Federal judge ruled that more should be done to prevent erosion and protect birds' nesting areas. As a result, the Park Service, again through Mr. Olsen, reduced the vehicle access to eight miles in warm months and banned it entirely in the winter.

Since then, the sports fishing and vehicle organizations have been demanding Mr. Olsen's transfer and a return to the 17-mile limit.

1888: Water spout spotted off Cape Cod

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