Stewart Udall, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and TPL’s latest “wicked” project there



In an op-ed in the Cape Cod Times, Phyllis Myers presents an interesting take on the legacy of former interior secretary Stewart Udall, who died on March 20.  Myers, who runs a consulting group in Washington D.C., worked with TPL on conservation finance issues in the 1980s.  More recently, she coauthored a book about the role of national parks–and one assumes that the ideas in the op-ed emerged from that work.

Essentially, Myers tells the Cape Cod audience that Udall led a movement to create national parks closer to population centers.

The creation of Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961 was more than a political gift to the new president and his nearby family home. The park was a turning point in the national park system’s evolution from the iconic, remote Yellowstone model to something called “parks for the people.”

Driving distance from Boston, Cape Cod National Seashore was the system’s first significant accommodation to urban reality. The park was largely made up of lands bought with federal dollars, not carved from land already in public ownership or donated. Moreover, its 40,000 acres of scenic dunes, glacial marshes, ponds and bays included 600 private homes in six towns with firm New England traditions of independence and home rule. In a first, park supporters, including President Kennedy, praised the park’s novel design for a new type of federal land protection umbrella sensitive to residents and towns.

History has confirmed Udall’s “prescient vision,” Myers states.  She goes on to discuss some of dilemmas that have arisen from the pioneering approach to park-making exemplified by the national seashore.

Coincidentally, the op-ed arrives as TPL is celebrating the completion of  its own latest project at the Cape Cod National Seashore — one very much in the spirit of Udall’s vision.  The privately owned North of Highland Camping Area long has provided the only family camping within the park.  A federally funded conservation easement will now ensure that the campground remains available for families who enjoy camping or could not otherwise afford accommodations on Cape Cod. 

A TPL press release about the project can be found here.  And there is a short article on the website Wicked Local Truro –a name you may find mysterious unless you are acquainted with Boston-area slang.

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