BREWSTER — The select board has voted unanimously for “First Light Beach” as the name of the town’s newest public beach on Cape Cod Bay.
Town meeting approved the $20 million purchase of the former Cape Cod Sea Camps in September. It also voted to acquire the Sea Camps’ 66 acres on Long Pond for $6 million. In the wake of the purchase, the town created the Bay Property Planning Committee, a group charged with developing a comprehensive use plan.
The town will open its new bayside beach by mid-June. A series of movie nights, a band concert, and a “touch-a-truck” event will be held over the course of the summer. In the meantime, the planning committee will continue to develop a comprehensive plan for the use of the property.
The name was chosen from four finalists, winnowed down from 500 entries, according to Town Administrator Peter Lombardi. Winners of the contest will be given a year’s pass to the beach. The other three finalists were Wono, Sea Camps, and Wild Acres.
The name Wono would have been a nod to Sea Camps history. First calling it Camp Monomoy, Robert and Emma Delehanty and Herriman Dodd opened a boys camp in 1922 to provide a summer home for international students from Worcester Academy. They opened a girl’s camp called Wono in 1938, named after a Wampanoag woman sachem.
The select board chose to include “Sea Camp” as a potential name to honor the camp’s contributions to Brewster’s history, and to acknowledge the thousands of children who passed through the camp in its nearly 100 years of history.
Wild Acres was the name originally given to the land by the McQuillan family, who owned it before the Delhantys. They built the stately white house that still sits atop the hill on the Route 6A property and is still called Wild Acres.
First Light was ultimately chosen because board members felt it recognized the history of the area as home to the Wampanoag people. The word “Wampanoag” means “People of the First Light.” Wampanoag people have lived on the Cape for approximately 12,000 years.
Earlier this spring, the Brewster Conservation Commission held hearings on the town’s proposal to remove several buildings and use some of the former camp’s tennis courts for parking. That was approved in April.
Currently 10 beaches provide public access to Cape Cod Bay in Brewster. Most of their parking lots are relatively small, making beachgoing a challenge during the height of the summer. Included in the town’s interim plan for this summer are a 50-space lot for residents at First Light.
“I’m glad there will be more parking available,” said Brewster resident Theresa Gordon. “Sometimes it’s hard to get onto the beach. I’m really excited this will be for residents only.”
Just how access to and use of the property will evolve beyond this summer remains to be seen, said select board member Ned Chatelain, who is a member of the planning committee as well.
That committee includes representatives of the select board, vision planning, natural resources, recreation, and open space committees, along with the council on aging, affordable housing trust, and cultural council.
Cape Cod Sea Camps was one of the last to close in a region once filled with camps. Dozens of camps drew thousands of campers each summer over the bridge into Cape Cod’s forests and onto its shores. At one time, Orleans alone had 14 summer camps scattered along the shores of Pleasant Bay. The last camp on Pleasant Bay closed in 1988.