EASTHAM –– The town and the National Seashore are close to finalizing a plan for parking at both the Coast Guard Beach and the reconfigured Nauset Light Beach lots this summer. Overall, Eastham residents will get about the same number of spots they’ve had since the last parking plan was made five years ago.
At Coast Guard Beach, residents will gain 4 to 14 spots, depending on the time of day. The plan calls for a total of 24 spots reserved for Eastham residents, but of those, 10 would be set aside for park ranger programming each morning until 11. Previously, the total number of spots reserved for residents at Coast Guard Beach was 10.
At Nauset Light Beach, 15 resident-only spaces have been lost. Proportionally, the agreement holds steady the residents’ share of available spaces. It reserves 57 spots (or 39 percent of the total), including three accessible spots, for Eastham residents. Previously, Eastham had 62 spots (38 percent of the total).
Erosion is the main culprit in the losses at the Nauset Light lot, said member Aimee Eckman at the select board’s March 28 meeting. After a February storm closed the lot for several days, the Seashore installed a new fence along the ocean side to keep visitors from getting too close to the edge.
Anticipating further erosion, the Seashore is building bath houses at Nauset Light as far as possible from the ocean. In January, Cape Cod National Seashore Supt. Brian Carlstrom said the Seashore hopes to get 20 years of use out of the new bath houses.
Those bath houses, too, are occupying space previously devoted to parking. One change that will make up for some lost spots: the Seashore will reduce the width of all parking spaces from 10 to 9 feet.
The Park is also considering another change. Select board chair Art Autorino reported on March 28 that, “after lots of discussion,” Carlstrom agreed to meet with town officials to discuss permitting visitors to be dropped off at Nauset Light — an idea the Park has previously opposed.
Autorino also said that the Seashore plans to explore the potential of a satellite parking site across from Nauset Regional High School. The Seashore owns a swath of woods on Cable Road and will need to come up with a parking solution once erosion wipes out the current Nauset Light parking lot.
“I think it could only benefit us, as a town, and the school for events happening in the new performing arts center once it’s built,” Eckman said of the idea. Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe noted that the Seashore is taking a “serious” look at expanding its shuttle service to Nauset Light. The shuttle currently runs from Little Creek Parking Area on Doane Road to Coast Guard Beach.
Also on March 28, the select board announced that the dept. of public works and the Seashore are planning to build a sidewalk down the length of Cable Road. A small sidewalk currently runs from the Three Sisters lighthouses to Ocean View Drive.
The contract has not yet been signed, but the Seashore came to the town with the new numbers, according to Eckman. “We pitched the idea of managing the parking lot and giving all the parking to Eastham residents,” said Autorino at the select board’s March 7 meeting. “That was about a two-nanosecond conversation,” he added.
The 1963 deeds that transferred property from the town to the Seashore specified that Eastham residents be allowed to park and swim at Coast Guard and Nauset Light beaches without charge. An Eastham beach sticker is still required to prove residency and costs $25, according to the town’s website.
Over the years, access to the beaches for local residents has been an ongoing concern. The every-five-year parking plan agreement between town and Park became the norm in 2007, explained Eckman.
In 2005, a group called the Eastham Ocean Beach Committee attempted to persuade voters to support the construction of a new town-owned beach and parking lot on Ocean View Drive between Coast Guard and Nauset Light. The idea failed to win a two-thirds majority vote at town meeting, Eckman said.
At the time, Eckman joined the Eastham Citizens for Responsible Coastal Development, which opposed the plan. Clearing trees for pavement and the maintenance demands of another lot were their main objections, Eckman said.
In 2007, the town and the Seashore agreed to the every-five-year routine of setting aside a certain number of parking spaces for Eastham residents, she said.