Cape Cod Year in Review: 2017

HYANNIS – A massive fire in Provincetown, the collapse of a beach parking lot in Wellfleet and a wildly controversial plan to kill sharks off Cape Cod were all stories that captured headlines in 2017.

We also followed a heated battle over ice cream in Dennis, heard about a tick explosion on Cape Cod and tracked a deadly year for the North Atlantic Right Whale.

From the beginning of 2017 to the closing days of December, Cape Cod has witnessed a non-stop news cycle from Provincetown to Bourne and all places in between.

Here are some of the top stories you read on CapeCod.com and heard on our CCB Media radio stations, including Ocean 104.7, 99.9 The Q, Cape Classical 107.5 and Cape Country 104.

Cape Wind Saga Comes to an End

Cape Wind Associates abandoned its long-stalled plans for a wind farm on Nantucket Sound in 2017.

The company notified the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that it has ceased operations and was surrendering its federal lease for 46 square miles between the Cape and Islands.

Cape Wind proposed the nation’s first offshore wind farm with a 130-turbine project 16 years ago.

While it was scheduled to be the first offshore wind farm in the country, another project off Block Island, Rhode Island went on line first.

The Cape Wind project was dealt major setbacks including the termination of critical agreements with utility companies in 2015.

Both Eversource and National Grid cancelled their agreements when Cape Wind failed to get required financing secured.

Audra Parker, head of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound that opposed the project, praised the news.

“It has been a very long and very expensive fight and we are thrilled that we are at this point now,” Parker said. “With Cape Wind done we can devote our attention to securing long-term protection of Nantucket Sound so that we’re not faced with another industrial development like this in the future.”

Massive Provincetown Fire

A major blaze broke out in downtown Provincetown on Memorial Day Weekend. The blaze started at The Red Shack in Lopes Square between the Surf Club, Tatiana’s Foot Long Hot Dogs and The Coffee Pot.

All the businesses were in a block long building at 315 Commercial Street that runs to the foot of MacMillan Wharf. With the town jammed for the holiday weekend, police kept watch on large crowds that gathered on Commercial Street and on the beach behind the building to watch the firefight.

The fire quickly went through the roof and destroyed a big section of the block.

Three alarms were sounded bringing mutual aid as far as Harwich to the scene with other units from all over the Cape covering other fire stations.

Provincetown firefighters were credited with stopping the fire from consuming even more buildings. There were no serious injuries. Reconstruction began in late 2017 and should be completed later in 2018.

While the fire was determined to be accidental, the exact cause was never pinpointed, although an electrical issue was suspected.

A Controversial Plan to Kill Sharks

A shark hazard mitigation strategy that would have resulted in killing great white sharks was proposed by Barnstable County Commissioner Ron Beaty in 2017.

The proposal, which has been utilized in countries like Australia and South Africa, would place baited drum lines off popular Cape Cod beaches with hooks to catch great whites.

Large sharks found hooked and alive would then be shot and discarded at sea.

Beaty’s proposal came as a paddle board was bitten off Marconi Beach in Wellfleet and just days after a seal was attacked just off-shore at Nauset Beach in Orleans.

“This one was only a matter of feet from the shore. People had to rush out of the water at Nauset Beach,” Beaty said. “It could just as easily have been someone’s child that was attacked and bitten in half.”

The presence of white sharks in Cape waters has increased in recent years resulting in studies from organizations like the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.

The apex predators have also been embraced by the region and are even promoted for tourism by towns, including Chatham.

“We’ll see how much we embrace it when somebodies child is eaten alive,” Beaty said. “These sharks are not pets. They are man-eaters. They are killers. So have to see them for what they are.”

The Massachusetts Shark Research Program with the Division of Marine Fisheries disagreed with Beaty. The organization tweeted after the incident at Nauset Beach when a seal was attacked feet from shore.

“This is also a good reminder that these sharks are not mindless killing machines,” the tweet from @MA_Sharks said. “They know what they want & it’s not humans. Be #SharkSmart.”

Shark Advocates International, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit project dedicated to advancing science-based conservation of sharks and rays, also opposed Beaty’s proposal.

“Culling white sharks off MA violates state & federal regs. Shark culls have been shown ineffective, lethal for many marine species,” the organization said in a series of tweets from @SharkAdvocates. “White sharks are key to marine ecosystems off Cape Cod & beyond. Research & public education = best path for harmonious sharing of habitat.”

After outrage continued to build around his plan, Beaty suddenly announced that he was no longer pursue it, pending alternative proposals.

Cahoon Hollow Beach Parking Lot Washed Out

Heavy rains did major damage in mid-August at the Cahoon Hollow Beach parking lot in Wellfleet.A large section of dune collapsed taking an unoccupied car with it.

A large section of the parking lot in front of the Beachcomber slid into the ocean during the overnight hours, leaving town officials with the question of what to do next.

After the collapse, they created a safe path for pedestrians who want to walk to the beach from the bluff, but that was only a short-term solution.

“The Beachcomber remained open throughout the whole thing, it has parking behind it, the town parking lot in front is still closed to vehicle parking, however the comber is still running the free shuttle from White Crest for people who want to go to Cahoon Hollow,” said Wellfleet Beach Administrator Suzanne Thomas.

“It’s going to be a slow process and no one has landed on anything except to stabilize as much as possible the parking lot and deal with storm water runoff,” said Thomas.

The biggest concern for the town is storm water runoff mitigation and a long-term solution calls for someone who specializes in it to come up with a recommendation and for the town to accept it and have it go out to bid, but that could take a year.

A Deadly Year for North Atlantic Right Whales

Local marine researchers hailed a proposal from the Canadian government in 2017 to use their $400 million Atlantic Fisheries Fund and an innovation prize to develop new fishing gear or technologies in order to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.

A dozen of the whales have turned up dead in Canadian waters this past summer alone, four more were found of the U.S coast, the most recent of them washing up on Martha’s Vineyard.

Many of the animals have died as a result trauma after being struck by a fishing vessel or an entanglement with fishing gear.

“What’s going on in Canada in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence these mortalities are very much a local story, that is Cape Cod and Massachusetts waters,” said Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown.

“It’s quite important to realize that so that what goes on there very much our problem and visa versa.”

The right whales are expected to arrive in Cape Cod Bay over the next several weeks as part of their annual feeding and migration ritual.

In the past, Mayo has called the species, “Cape Cod’s whales.”

The Canadian plan calls for introducing a requirement for a 300 foot buffer zone between vessels and many marine mammals, right whales included.

The government is also weighing a plan to introduce aerial surveillance to monitor right whale feeding areas.

Other options under consideration include the reduction or modification of fishing gear, reducing the number of boats permitted to be on the water at a time, imposing stricter speed limitations on boats in the area or the whales, or moving up the start of fishing season to a time before the whales migrate north.

Mayo says that, whatever it may be, it is time for serious action on the crisis, “There’s no doubt that the present trajectory, the direction the population is going, is in a steep downward course and the future is, to be quite honest, if it keeps going the way that is that is, is extinction.”

Officials estimate that only about 450 North Atlantic right whales remain in existence.

Ice Cream Cone-Troversy Rages in Dennis

A lot of people were screaming for the Ice Cream Smuggler to remain in its current location on Route 6A in Dennis in 2017.

The owners of the ice cream shop were facing the possibility of leaving their current location because the landlord did not renew their lease.

That prompted a social media firestorm that spread far and wide, with thousands saying the Smuggler should stay.

The Ice Cream Smuggler in Dennis

“Unfortunately, our landlord did not give us the opportunity to negotiate a new lease. Instead the building has been leased to an ice cream chain without our prior knowledge,” Carter and Paul Catalano wrote on their Facebook page.

The new operator set to begin selling ice cream at the 716 Main Street location was Cape Cod Creamery, which has locations in Yarmouth and Hyannis.

But the Ice Cream Smuggler’s Carter Catalano said they were not going anywhere just yet, While their lease expired on May 13th, Catalano said they went into litigation with the landlord and hoped to be in business at their location through the summer.

“We’ve had both our children while we’ve been running it and we’ve had countless staff members that have just become family and the community and we love being part of the community,” said Catalano.

They were able to operate the store through the summer, but ultimately lost the legal battle and will have to find a new location in 2018 if they want to continue in business.

For their part during the dispute, Cape Cod Creamery took to social media to rebuke online claims they forced the Ice Cream Smuggler out.

“We were asked last year to take over the Ice Cream Smuggler in Dennis by the founder and owner of the building, the Hassett family. Let me say again, WE WERE APPROACHED. We were told the lease was expiring and the owners wanted to go in a different direction,” Cape Cod Creamery owner Alan Davis wrote on Facebook.

The post insisted there was no takeover of Ice Cream Smuggler and no “greed.”

Murder in Cotuit

Local and State Police and the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office investigated a brutal murder in Cotuit in early 2017.

Christopher S. Fratantonio, 36, is accused of killing his wife, Mary J. Frantantonio, in their home at 89 Trout Brook Road.

BARNSTABLE — Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times pool photo

According to Cape & Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, Barnstable Police received several 911 calls about a violent crime that happened at a home.

On arrival, officers encountered Fratantonio outside the house. According to a police report, he immediately made statements to officers that led them to believe he had stabbed his wife.

Once inside, police located her body in a bedroom with multiple stab wounds.

Fratantonio was subsequently arrested and charged with murder. According to police, he gave a detailed description of his motive and how he allegedly carried out the attack, including the location of the knife.

“It was a very difficult crime scene to deal with for the police, owing to a number of circumstances,” said O’Keefe.

Mary Fratantonio was a first-year 8th grade special education teacher at Barnstable High School.

O’Keefe could not comment on the circumstances surrounding the killing, but said there was something, “that was a trigger for this event.”

“It appears from all of the circumstances thus far that we can gleen, that this was a domestic violence murder,” said O’Keefe.

Friends of the family were shocked Tuesday afternoon to hear the news of the murder.

Eric Christensen of Hyannis went to school with Fratantonio’s brother at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School and later worked with the suspect for several years at a Cape Cod flooring company.

Both would later go on to start their own companies and help each other out with jobs. Christensen said he and others who knew the family were shocked to hear the news.

“They just seemed like a regular, everyday married couple,” he said.

“We never saw this coming,” said Christensen.

Christopher Fratantonio had two children with Mary and two children from a previous relationship. “I feel bad for the kids, I feel bad for her (Mary) mother and her stepdad. It’s just shocking,” Christensen said.

At Barnstable High School where Mary, who was also known by many as Molly, taught, principal Pat Clark said crisis intervention teams provided grief counseling for students and staff.

As of late 2017, Fratantonio was awaiting trial.

High Speed Ferry Crashes Into Hyannis Breakwater

The Steamship Authority’s high-speed ferry Iyanough crashed into the breakwater in Hyannis Harbor in mid-June, prompting a large-scale operation to remove the 57 people stranded on board, including 15 who were taken to Cape Cod Hospital for evaluation.
Rescue crews were able to float the ferry off the rocks several hours later and escort if back to the docks.

In its place, then-General Manager Wayne Lamson said the SSA had contracted with the SeaStreak ferry line to use their vessel Wall Street, that was going to be used in a limited capacity while the Iyanough was repaired.

Lamson said the Iyanough was being operated by a veteran crew.

“The two officers on board the vessel have over 60 years of combined service with the Steamship Authority,” he said. Crew testing for alcohol came back negative and drug testing results were pending.

Rough seas hampered the rescue efforts in the hours after the crash, forcing the crew and passengers to stay on the crippled vessel for several hours while rescue teams devised an evacuation plan.

A Coast Guard helicopter responded to the scene to airlift the most seriously injured people to waiting ambulances at Barnstable Municipal Airport. A doctor on board the boat assisted with those who were injured.

Mutual aid came in from surrounding towns’ rescue boats from as far away as Harwich.

Passenger Kyle King said he initially thought the boat hit another vessel. After several hours, he said rescue crews were able to get them off the ferry.

“They hooked up a ladder up to the side of the jetties, made us climb over and hop down and on to the Coast Guard boat,” he said.

Passenger Kane Barton said he heard a huge jolt when they stuck the rocks.

“And I flew forward and I looked up and everyone flew forward and I didn’t know what to do so all of sudden I started grabbing life vests,” Barton said.

Lamson would shed additional light on the events immediately prior to the grounding of the M/V Iyanough in Hyannis Harbor on June 16 during a meeting later that month.

He indicated that the captain misinterpreted a metal pole on the Hyannis breakwater for a buoy. The vessel collided with the breakwater around 9:35 p.m. that evening.

According to Lamson, the Iyanough approached the “HH” navigation buoy, which is about 2,500 yards south from the entrance to the main channel in Hyannis harbor. At that point, the captain asked the pilot to deploy the boat’s searchlight to illuminate Buoy 4, the next aid to navigation on the normal route for the vessel.

“When the captain returned to the RADAR, he recognized the familiar pattern of Buoys 4, 5, and 6 and began adjusting the vessel’s course to accommodate its entrance into the main Hyannis channel,” Lamson said. “The Pilot was unable to locate any navigational aids with the searchlight.”

“But what the Captain has interpreted on the RADAR as Buoy number 4 was in fact the metal pole at the ending of the breakwater, which is about 800 yards north of Buoy number 4 and also north of the channel entrance,” Lamson added.

The breakwater was not visible to the officers, due to waves that are estimated to have been 8 feet high at the time. Lamson said that obscured the breakwater’s RADAR image, but the pole was picked up because it remained higher than the waves. What the captain believed to be buoys 5 and 6 were actually sailboats, according to Lamson.

The Steamship Authority had previously stated that inclement weather, strong winds, and choppy seas played complicating factors in the grounding of the vessel.

Local Businesses Fear Visa Program Elimination

Businesses across Cape Cod expressed concern about a plan in August by the Trump Administration to eliminate the J-1 Visa program, with many saying it would devastate the region’s summer economy.

According to Congressman Bill Keating’s office, about 7,000 students come to the state for cultural and work exchange, with about 4,200 H-2B workers employed on the Cape and Islands during the summer season.

The H-2B visa program allows adult workers to come into the country to work for up to nine months.

There were new regulations introduced this year for the H-2B program, limiting the number of applicants.

Keating said discontinuing it or decreasing the J-1 visa program would have devastating consequences for employers and seasonal businesses.

“The Summer Work Travel Program is a positive, impactful experience for everyone involved,” said Congressman Keating.

“The students experience American culture and values, so much so that over three-fourths of the participants report more positive views of America at the end of their stay. There is simply no reason for the Trump Administration to do this. They are putting their own apparent xenophobia before the livelihoods of American citizens.”

Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr was disappointed with the news about the program’s possible future.

He said that he grew up working alongside Serbian, Czech, Irish, Bulgarian and Italian university students in his family’s restaurant, thanks to the J-1 Visa program.

“President Trump’s short-sighted intention to eliminate the J-1 Visa program will harm small businesses and tourism on the Cape and Islands,” said Cyr.

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross has reached out to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who also sits on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, in the hopes that they will have a more sympathetic view on the Cape’s regional economy.

Some of those affected by the elimination of the J-1 program would be the National Park Service.

“All have visitor centers and gift shops and ranger programs and they have peak season needs that are hugely supplemented by the J-1 Visa college students that are here,” said Northcross.

She said that she expected that a decision by the federal government about the future of the program could come next month.

Depending on the decision, Northcross said that it could have big impact on the region.

“Potentially half of our seasonal workforce could be affected by some of these decisions,” said Northcross.

Cape Cod Experiences “Tick Explosion”

Barnstable County’s entomologist Larry Dapsis in late spring said the region was experiencing a “tick explosion,” and weather really didn’t have much to do with it.

He said that many falsely believe that the mild winter caused the boom in tick numbers, but in reality, ticks just go dormant in subfreezing temperatures. The cold doesn’t actually kill them.

But as the summer was beginning, Dapsis said he was worried about the one variety of tick which is responsible for most of the state’s disease outbreaks.

He reports a dog owner sent him a bag with about 40 ticks she found on her pooch after it was outside for only 15 minutes.

Right now, deer ticks are in their “nymph stage,” he said at the time, and are only about the size of a poppy seed. Their diminutive size makes them hard to locate on the body.

But the entomologist did offer some tips to avoid tick-borne illness.

First and foremost, performing regular tick checks should be a daily priority, he said.

Tossing outdoor clothes in the drier can help, too. But don’t be fooled into thinking that ticks can survive a spell in the washing machine.

“They just come out shiny, that’s the only way it affects them,” Dapsis said.

Another insider’s tip: try treating clothing with permethrin solutions, available at outdoor-oriented stores. Dapsis said he’s not had a tick bite in the six years since he started treating his clothes with the safe substance.

He pointed out that kids ages 5 through 9 are most susceptible to Lyme disease.

Guilty Verdict in Bourne Murder

A Barnstable Superior Court jury found Adrian Loya guilty of first-degree murder in 2017 in the shooting death of Coast Guard Petty Officer Lisa Trubnikova in 2015.

He was also found guilty on several other charges, including aggravated assault and battery, armed home invasion and assault and battery on a police officer, among others.

The murder conviction came with an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Adrian Loya is led to a prisoner transport van after his conviction on first degree murder in Barnstable Superior Court

“The verdict was consistent with the evidence the jury heard,” said Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe after it was delivered.

Prosecutors said Loya forced his way into a Bourne condominium in February 2015, killing Trubnikova, and injuring her wife, Petty Officer Anna Trubnikova.

“This jury really performed their duty with a very conscientious sprit,” said O’Keefe.

“They are relieved. They’ve lived with the terrible, terrible incident in their lives. I’ve heard it said that there’s nothing worse than a parent losing a child,” said O’Keefe about how Trubnikova’s family was reacting to the verdict and dealing with their loss.

The DA called the case a classic battle of the experts.

Bourne Police Officer Jared MacDonald was shot in the back while responding and has spent the last two-plus years recovering. He also testified at the trial.

Honorable Mentions:

Several other stories caught the attention of Cape Codders in 2017.

Closed for the season: Liam’s at Nauset Beach in Orleans Tuesday afternoon

The fate of Liam’s restaurant at Nauset Beach will be left up to Mother Nature to decide in 2018. Orleans Selectmen recently abandoned a plan to tear down the current building and relocate the restaurant to a modular facility further back in the parking lot. Erosion has chewed away at the dune in front of the building in recent years. The beach lostabout 12 feet during one storm three years ago and has been stable since. Restaurant owner John Ohman said he will honor the lease, which has three years remaining, and hope for the best. “They are going to let it be – let it go to the sea as the sea will take it,” Ohman said.

Cliff Myers, John Morgan and Gordie Milne, singing at Jake Rooney’s in Harwich Port Wednesday night. Photo courtesy: Jake Rooney’s

The Cape Cod Happy Hour era was celebrated in 2017 with the local premier of the Kings of Cape Cod, a documentary that chronicles the party-hearty times when the booze flowed freely and a group of performers ruled the local bar scene. From the 1960’s to the end of the 1980’s, summers on Cape Cod were dominated by late afternoon happy hours at the Crystal Palace, the Sandy Pond Club, Pufferbellies, the Mill Hill Club, the Improper Bostonian and the Compass Lounge, among others. John Morgan, Gordie Milne, DJ Sullivan, Cliff Myers, Dick Doherty and Jim Plunkett were some of the stars — Cape Cod’s own version of the Rat Pat.

After multiple overwashes from winter storms on the southern section of South Beach in Chatham, a breach finally occurred in April 2017. A storm which brought rain and strong winds to the Cape created a new inlet going from Chatham Harbor into the Outermost Harbor. “It looks relatively stable, although it’s still early and only been a couple of days,” said Robert Duncanson, the town’s director of natural resources. “But right now every indication is that it is going to sustain itself and we are probably going to have a new breach on our hands.”

The Cape Cod National Seashore confirmed that a paddle board was bitten by a shark in August at Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. The person on the board was not injured, according to then-Acting Seashore Superintendent Kathy Tevyaw. “He was not bitten by the shark but there are definitely teeth marks in his board,” she said. Tevyaw said the paddle boarder was 30 yards off-shore in three feet of water, about 75 yards south of the guarded section of the beach.

PHOTO COURTESY: Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in June withdrew its revised application for taking land into federal trust in Mashpee and Taunton, in what appears to be another delay in their attempts to build a casino. In a statement, the tribe said, “…in consultation with the U.S. Department of Interior, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has suspended its request for review under Category 1 of the Indian Reorganization Act.” The tribe said the move would preserve their rights to seek further review and consultation at a later date.

Dennis Selectmen reviewed their beach policies in 2017 after speaking with police and beach management in response to an incident on July 4that Mayflower Beach. Police arrested five teenagers for allegedly engaging in sexual activity in the water and being intoxicated. The incident brought national media attention to the town, as a video of the event was on social media, showing some onlookers watching in disbelief and others cheering them on.

With a crowd looking on in February, a Jeep Wagoneer was pulled from its sand-filled garage in Truro, 40 years after it last cruised the nearby beach. The town asked the Musnuff family to move the Jeep as the shifting dune at Ballston Beach covers beach parking spaces and is causing environmental concerns. The Jeep had been entombed throughout the years in a wind-blown and sand-filled garage that was collapsing under the weight of building sand.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Cape Cod Five President and CEO Dorothy Savarese was among representatives of small community banks who met with President Donald Trump in the early weeks of his presidency. Savarese is also the chair of the American Banking Association. The meeting included the bankers, Trump, members of the president’s National Economic Council and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “He wanted to understand how to help tailor the regulatory framework so that it did not have a disproportionate impact on smaller institutions like Cape Cod Five,” said Savarese.

A tidal test site, with the mission of assessing hydro-energy technology, was installed in the Cape Cod Canal. The test site is a project by the Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative and involves the testing of energy collecting turbines, up to 3 meters in diameter. “What it is, is really a first in the nation and in many ways the first in the world test stand that you can put tidal turbines on to test them in fast-moving waters,” explained John Miller, Executive Director of MRECo. Water velocity in the canal has been measured at over four knots in either direction, making it the ideal location for such testing.

Coast Guard Beach once again made Dr. Beach’s list of Top 10 Beaches in the county for 2017. Dr. Stephen Leatherman placed the Eastham beach at number 6 on this year’s list down one spot from 2016. Coast Guard Beach also made the list in 2015 at number 7. “What an idyllic spot it is and quite a history to it going back to Champlain’s 1605 map of the area,” Leatherman said. “It’s certainly my favorite beach in the northeast and a spectacular beach to visit.”

The 2017 CapeCod.com Year in Review was compiled, edited and written by News Director Matt Pitta, with story contributions from Matt McCarthy, Brian Merchant, David Beatty, Justin Saunders, Adam Forziati, Mike DeFina, Jay Rogers, Doug Frye and Rob Woodard. Additional assistance was provided by Director of Digital Strategy Brian Barth and the digital department’s James Bone.

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