EASTHAM – Despite a global pandemic and the temporary closure of two beaches, the Cape Cod National Seashore still welcomed 4.1 million visitors in 2020, a number consistent with the average number of visitors in a typical year.
A major improvement this year was that all trails and beaches were open last summer. The Salt Pond Visitor Center is currently closed, although National Seashore staff still provide outdoor orientation services.
âIt took a tremendous effort from all of our staff, and a lot of understanding, kindness and attention from so many of our visitors, and we all continue to go through this together,â said the Superintendent of seaside Brian Carlstrom. , in a high-profile annual update Thursday on what’s happening at the National Seashore.
Although normally held indoors, the conference was held at outdoor benches with Carlstrom speaking on a podium in the visitor center amphitheater. To the side, through dark green trees, the ocean sparkled on a slightly bustling mid-October day that rivaled the brightness of summer.
About 20 people were seated on the benches for the speech entitled Seashore Soundings. Carlstrom explained that sounding is a term used to measure water depth to get an idea of ââwhat the bathymetric profile is and to understand erosion and sea level rise.
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Carlstrom spoke about some of the work the National Seashore has done over the past year and hopes to do in the coming year.
Salt Pond’s septic system has been improved, which Carlstrom says already results in better water quality. He also said the National Seashore has a partnership with the City of Eastham for a reactive permeable barrier to help manage groundwater contaminants.
Carlstrom also spoke about a project made possible by the Great American Outdoors Act, which he says is currently making its way to Congress. The project would give the National Park Service $ 5 billion nationwide over the next five years, what Carlstrom has called a “one-time investment in a generation.”
Seashore officials plan to use part of the local park’s share of that money to demolish 45 abandoned structures, a project they were unable to complete due to lack of funding.
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Another planned project will be the installation of 1,100 signs along the entire coastline. Carlstrom said some of the current signs vary excessively and are confusing.
Updating another project, Carlstrom said the Nauset Light public bath complex project, which is behind schedule due to supply chain and labor issues, is expected to be completed by the next summer.
Work was also done on the satellite toilets (the most widely used public toilets on Cape Cod, Carlstrom said). Roofs have been repaired on various buildings, he said, from improvements to staff housing units, improvements to trails and roads, rehabilitation of Highland and Nauset lighthouses and much more.
Bad weather affected all-terrain vehicle schedules as the bird nests were washed away by the rain, pushing back the opening for ORV access.
No Superintendent’s discussion is complete without talking about sharks, Carlstrom said. He said the coastline continued to use media attention to raise awareness of ocean safety. However, he said going in the water is a personal choice and people have to manage their own risks.
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Regarding fresh water, Carlstrom said kettle pond monitoring has resumed, along with cyanobacteria monitoring. He said the cyanobacteria will likely be around for a long time and the seaside is trying to figure out what causes them.
Mosquitoes have been a nuisance this summer on the Outer Cape, some caused by an overflow of salt water. Although the National Seashore is working with the Cape Cod Mosquito Control Project to address the issue, Carlstrom said, the National Seashore is working at the ecosystem level, not at the species level. Seafarers can only act if there is a public danger.
Carlstrom thanked the Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore, who work regularly with the agency. He also spoke of an internship program over the summer that worked with tribal youth to help National Seashore Rangers learn about Indigenous perspectives.
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During the question-and-answer period, Carlstrom was asked about the growing number of dead trees on the nation’s coastline and whether staff are doing anything to mitigate the risk of fire. Carlstrom said they are.
Some people present expressed hope for a full return to normalcy in the coming year.
âI hope COVID is gone for all of us, and we can reopen this and get back to normal. But that’s not a realistic hope, âsaid Bonnie Nuendel.