• Meet George Price, Superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore

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    What inspires you about being superintendent?

    Price: It sounds overblown, but it truly is an honor to be superintendent. When the National Seashore was established 52 years ago, it was unique because it is part of six communities. It encompasses 44,000 acres, but the federal government owns only 27,000 acres. It has been a true partnership with Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham, along with the state.

    I never cease to be amazed by the National Seashore’s wonderful views and vistas, its cultural and historic landmarks. Every day, our entire staff is dedicated to protecting these extraordinary and unique resources for generations to come. We are joined joyfully by thousands of friends, volunteers, neighbors and community leaders in this commitment to the future.

    What positions did you hold before coming to Cape Cod? How does your current assignment different from those?

    Price: I actually began as a teacher. My background was historical archeology. I considered myself a naturalist by avocation. I joined the National Park Service for the Bicentennial in 1976 and my first posting was the national historic park at Morristown, New Jersey. Subsequently, I worked at Minuteman and Lowell national historic parks. I also was superintendent of Boston Harbor Island.

    Here at the National Seashore, there is a very strong natural resources management component to the job. I work with many scientists and ecologists who are Park Service employees and also local experts at places like the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

    But, there also is a strong cultural aspect to my job. The National Seashore is responsible for about 70 historic structures and landscapes, and there are a half million artifacts in our museum collection.

    Together, these natural and cultural resources are seen and experienced by four to five million visitors a year.

    My varied background has allowed me to work with a team of supervisors and managers who actually pull all the pieces together. I rely on a very experienced and skilled team that encompassing planning, history, culture, public safety, the environment, law enforcement and education. I supervise 100 people year round, and we hire 200 additional temporary people in the summer. Some temporary staffers actually have been returning for as many as 40 years. They have become friends as well as work colleagues.

    Within the National Seashore, do you have special places or spaces?

    Price: I have many, but one in particular is Fort Hill. I can enjoy its magnificent landscape any time of the day in any weather or season. But, I also will stand at Fort Hill and envision a millennium of human occupation, all the Native Americans who lived there. Then, there was the Mayflower sailing up and down Nauset Beach. There are Mayflower passengers buried at a cemetery at the bottom of Fort Hill. They left Plymouth because it was too crowded and ventured to what is now Eastham to resettle.

    Fort Hill also is the site where members of Congress visited and decided the site should not be developed privately, but should belong to every American. When you stand at Fort Hill and look in all directions to the Great Beach, the beautiful Coast Guard Station glistening in the sunlight, these are the things that go through your mind.

    I also am always touched by Race Point, where you can see whales breaching off shore and the majestic dunes across the Province Lands, the lighthouse and now the . oint lightlouse and visitor center and see whales right off the beach.

    Most visitors enjoy the National Seashore in the peak summer months. They would be surprised how wonderful it is in the winter. I will put on my boots in the snow and walk near my office to the White Cedar Forest at Marconi Beach. I hear the ice crack, hear solitary birds in the distance, feel the wind on my face. It is splendid solitude.

    I met one young woman from Roxbury. I remember her saying, “I can’t believe this all belongs to me.” In fact, it does belong to all of us. Our country decided to set aside this special place for every American to own.

    Visitors always see park rangers in their uniforms and in their vehicles. But, who really are these men and women?

    Price: When you see someone in a National Park Service uniform with a ranger badge, they could be a historian, a naturalist, a law enforcement officer or a maintenance worker. They come from all parts of the nation – from Yosemite to the Shenandoah. They may have dangled from a helicopter to rescue climbers in the West or worked in the Everglades or at Gettysburg. Our park planner worked at Golden Gate National Park.

    One particular challenge you must address as superintendent is balancing the needs of the park with the communities?

    Price: The first study of a National Park for Cape Cod was in the 1930s. That’s when many people became concerned that the pristine beaches here could go the direction of Revere Beach or Atlantic City. These concerns were magnified after World War II, as so many new families were formed, cars bought, children born, vacations planned.

    Despite considerable anxiety – and opposition – from some local interests, residents and leaders of the six communities understood that a private-public partnership inevitably would be the best strategy to preserve the Outer Cape.

    Large tracts of the National Seashore are basically private property within town boundaries. The towns have had to develop unique zoning to allow these areas to be managed to the goals of the National Seashore. In Orleans and Chatham, which chose to maintain management of all their beaches, they still deal with piping plovers just as we do. They manage off-road vehicles just as we do.

    There still are challenging issues involving the balance between the federal and local governments, as well as private and public property. We need to address the security of potable water, adequate sewage, groundwater protection and pressures to overdevelop.

    Over the years, we have transacted land transfers. Nauset Regional High School, for example, sits within the National Seashore, only a short walk to Nauset Light Beach.

    One thing the Park Service and the towns have in common is providing the best service and experience to visitors. The National Seashore attracts millions of visitors each year who will shop at our stores, eat at our restaurants, sleep at our hotels, motels, B&B’s and rental homes. We estimate that in 2012, our park visitors spent $179 million on the Cape. That spending supported approximately 2,170 jobs in the area.

    How do the Outer Cape communities contribute to the National Seashore?

    Price: We all are facing similar challenges. As we move forward, we must address issues as profound as climate change, beach erosion and rising sea levels. But, there are also daily pragmatic concerns such as visitor expectations. In the past, families often rented a home for a month. Now, many come for only a few days. How do we engage these new visitors?
    I know many towns are having a difficult time sustaining their population bases. Over time, what effects do changing demographics have on the National Seashore? There are more second-home owners and retirees living here now than a decade ago. How do we provide services and access to these new Cape Codders?

    Beach erosion is a significant common concern. Each year, we may see as much as three feet of beach on the Atlantic side erode. We will see more changes as the sea level rises. How will we deal with future hurricanes? If predictions are correct, we can anticipate more and stronger storms.

    Our new Herring Cove bathhouse addresses these future concerns. It is built on pilings that are mobile and can be moved back to address future beach erosion and higher sea levels. That is how we can protect our taxpayers’ investments.

    Wastewater issues are not just the concerns of towns and individual property owners. They impact the integrity of the National Seahsore’s resources.

    You work very closely with the Friends of Cape Cod National Seashore. How does this nonprofit group support the park and its visitors?

    Price: Volunteerism and philanthropy have been key to the success of the National Park system for generations. There are 396 units of the National Park system, and about half of them have Friends groups. Some of these groups focus on fund raising, some on volunteer projects and some on both. Last year, more than two million volunteers supported National Parks with their time and effort.

    The Friends of Cape Cod National Seashore have provided added value to the Seashore program with their financial support and personal involvement doing work and providing services. Countless volunteer efforts, such as trail maintenance, vista management support, lab volunteers, the wild-land fire program, dune restoration, public programs of concerts and beach campfires are examples of its support, which is beyond the ability of park staff. They all add significantly to the visitor experiences.

    What impact does the National Seashore experience have on those who visit it, especially families?

    Price: I have been inspired by two Richard Louv books, Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principal. Louv discusses the unfortunate passing of unfettered outdoor time for children. He labels it “Nature Deficit Disorder.”

    He outlines the enormous health benefits we can find outdoors exploring nature. He believes we should follow a health “prescription” where nature can provide healing and reduce stress.

    When I arrived at the Cape, I learned that in 1963, Cape Cod National Seashore was the first national park to build a bike trail with the Province Lands 7.2-mile bike trail. Dr. Paul Dudley White, President Eisenhower’s physician and public health advocate at the time, cut the opening ribbon. Dr. White said, “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more for an unhappy, but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.”

    A major observation by Louv was the importance of an enthusiastic adult in the lives of young people to excite them about the outdoor experience we treasure. The infectious excitement of a parent, guardian, teacher or friend as the tour guide or fellow explorer of a nature trail or beach walk is of immeasurable value.

    I believe we should listen to this message and take the time to explore the wonders of Cape Cod and have healthier times for ourselves and our children

     

    April 22, 2014