Cape Cod National Seashore Future-Proofing in Fight Against Erosion

Herring Cove Parking Lot in 2016

WELLFLEET – After a season of strong storms that battered the region, the Cape Cod National Seashore outlined some of the ways that it is handling erosion at its beaches among other preparations ahead of the summer season.

Superintendent Brian Carlstrom said that Nauset Bath House complex is on track to be completed for the summer season, though Nauset parking will see some impact by erosion which has been seen at a number of locations at the Seashore. 

It is also neither the first or last time erosion has taken its toll on the beach areas, said Carlstrom.

“The Coast Guard Beach areas are pretty actively eroding so we’re watching that very closely. Two years ago we needed to relocate the access trail. That’s always a hotspot for us, and we’ve got some planning beginning to  determine what the long term options may be at that site, because we know with active erosion there and at Nauset we’re likely to have to change some traffic patterns,” said Carlstrom.

The southern end of the parking lot at Herring Cove is also getting close to the bay, which Carlstrom said they are looking into. 

“Our whole philosophy is to retreat and rebuild as we continue to adapt to climate change and the sea level rise,” said Carlstrom.

“We’re expecting to see more sea level rise in the Northeast than any other areas of the country, and Cape Cod National Seashore is right at the forefront of that. So we’ve got a lot of monitoring going on and have one of the richest datasets of coastal monitoring for erosion rates anywhere in the world and continue to look at that very closely.”

Carlstrom said that long term sustainability is the primary goal of the seashore when designing, such as when they removed a set of stairs at Nauset that washed away frequently in storms. 

The bath house complex was also rebuilt further away, and the nearby trail was also moved to be in a more protected location.

At Herring Cove, similar action was seen when the parking lot was moved in 2018 with the addition of some sand dunes as an erosion barrier.

Carlstrom said that wave energy has been increasing in recent years, potentially leading to further erosion in the future, though added that the National Seashore will continue to work towards sustainability as more summer projects are completed like the Province Lands Race Point Road repaving, as well as the reestablishing of the Beach Forest spur bike trail in the same area. 

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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