Cape Cod Commission and the battle of Cape Cod

To borrow from a union song Pete Seeger used to sing, in the battle of Cape Cod, which side are you on?

The battle of Cape Cod. It’s going on and we’re all in it, like it or not.


The perennially embattled Cape Cod Commission makes a game attempt in its mission statement to be all things to all constituents. It aims at “a balanced relationship between environmental protection and economic progress.” But the whole rationale of the Commission was, and is, essentially preservationist, “to protect the unique values and quality of life on Cape Cod” from the threat “of inappropriate uses” (development).


With the building boom and burgeoning population of 1980s it became apparent to many that if we continued the way we were going something important—the unique values and quality of life—would be lost forever, and we needed to do something. So we created the CCC: paid staff, an effective organization of representatives with which to fight back against the profit-motivated, often large corporations with deep pockets, full-time lawyers, lobbyists, PR experts. Note: “we created.” 76% of Cape residents voted for it.


The reference to “economic progress” in the founding statement isn’t just a sop. Those wanting to protect the Cape were (and are) aware of of the circularity of our situation: Cape Cod, like any place, needs business and jobs or Cape Codders, especially our youth, won’t be able to afford to stay here; development of a certain sort (franchises, big boxes) might produce jobs but it will compromise the character of the Cape and our quality of life, the whole reason we want to live here rather than anywhere else. But if we prevent development…. And so round and round.


But it’s clear where the Commission cuts into the circularity. In every decision we make, we must always start with that premise: there’s something about traditional Cape Cod that’s worth protecting (And not incidentally, essential to our tourism “product”. If we need reminding of what it is that’s worth saving, ask a summer visitor.)


It’s disturbing to hear someone in a letter to this paper stoop to calling the Commission “gangsters and thugs.” But such name-calling suggests the depth of feeling. This is a pitched battle between very different interests.


Clearly the CCC is not for everybody. It’s not for those who find themselves saying or thinking, as many were during the recent struggle: “What’s wrong with Lowe’s? It’s so convenient.”


The old Cape is gone, get over it.”


What unique values? The Cape already looks pretty much like everywhere else, so what’s the fuss?”


Life on the Outer Cape would be so much better if we had that Stop & Shop in North Truro that the CCC helped shoot down.”


The Commission is for those who say: “There’s something unique about this place I love and national franchises and big box stores are its opposite.”


If you don’t get how a Lowe’s doesn’t feel right here, you don’t get it.”


Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” (Baby being the character of this place, bathwater being low employment.)


What does it profit a place if it prospers but loses its soul in the process?”


In the debate between such fundamentally opposed feelings and opposing interests the Battle of Cape Cod is fought. Which side are you on?



[ELIM IN PUB VERSION]At present the battle is fought as well in the laborious process by which the Cape Cod Commision evaluates in our behalf which business proposals will and which won’t wreck what we have, what this place has been and still to a large extent is (the reason we’re still having this development vs. preservation debate, which in many places has been over).




One Comment

  • Anonymous wrote:

    Hola! I’ve been reading your site for some time noow and finaslly got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Dallas Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the good work!nn1

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