Nauset Horizons

Summer Traditions on the Verge of Being Lost

Crowes Pasture in Dennis: an uproar by locals and summer visitors over the possible closing of the well-known beach

Emma R. Lang, Reporter

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DENNIS- Crowes Pasture in Dennis, Massachusetts has served as a place of adventure for Dennis residents and non-residents alike. Although there are beautiful walking trails, Crowes Pasture is mainly known for its off roading vehicle permits (ORV) that can be bought each year through town office, now extended by mail for the residents who come to Cape Cod in the summer months. Last year, nine-hundred and sixty permits were bought for the use of driving on the beach and flats. For locals, a permit is available for the off season.

The decision is still up in the air if the new state coastal management guidelines pass. The new legislation bans all vehicles from driving or parking on the flats during low tide. It is important to note that off-roading has been a popular hobby during the summer on Cape Cod for decades.

The plan for off-road vehicles was authorized in the early 1990’s, and Crowes Pasture has been a popular attraction for locals and tourists since. In 2004, Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation even admired “the use of recreation off-road vehicles” at Crowes Pasture. Interestingly in 1999, when Dennis proposed an update which the state agency put a red flag on the proposal and called a limit on the ‘traffic’ allowed on the Dennis flats. This limit has been a rule up until this current debate

If the Dennis Selectman makes a major push against the state, the state could force the ban for all vehicles from the flats during the times of low tide. In past years, one-hundred and twenty-five vehicles have been the maximum limit on the beach and the flats and this would reached, at times, by ten in the morning on weekends. The new plan would allow a maximum number of eighty-five recreational vehicles above the high water mark. Cape Cod local, Josh Schofield said, “Crowes Pasture is beautiful all times of the year, this is a real shame.”

Sean Fitzpatrick, a Dennis native and year-round resident of Cape Cod, said, “My parents have been bringing me out there since I was born and, I’ve been driving out pretty much since I got my license. It’s a really different beach experience that’s unique to Cape Cod” [Cape Cod Times, February 11, 2018]

Department of Environmental Protection spokesmen Edmund Coletta released information about updated off-road vehicle management. The notice has halted vehicles to go on the flats with a presence of the endangered piping plover in the dunes and along the roads. The Department of Environmental responded on December 21, 2017 with the decree: “Use of the tidal flats for vehicle travel or parking should not be allowed pursuant to the Barrier Beach Guidelines … Parking should only be permitted in the over-sand vehicle corridors. Corridors should be located to avoid tidal flats.”

Summer resident John Fitzgerald, a 43-year-old father of two children, expressed his disdain for the proposed restrictions. “They will not be happy until every human is kept within their designated ‘appropriate’ areas” [The Boston Globe, March 30, 2018]

Crowes Pasture, a special family beach, risks the chance of being lost. At the end of March, Chairman George Macdonald told the town, “Don’t ask me how this will end up, because I don’t know.”

Brewster resident, Justin Labdon worries about the possibility saying, “It’s the highlight of everybody’s summer. My kids call it Adventure Beach.” [The Boston Globe, March 30, 2018]

The uncertainty of Crowes Pasture off-road vehicle access this summer is unnerving to many Cape Codders and summer visitors alike.

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Summer Traditions on the Verge of Being Lost