WASHINGTON, D.C. — Reauthorization of the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission was to be the subject of testimony heard Wednesday, March 4, by members of a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Among 14 bills before the Subcommittee on National Parks was one already passed by the House on Nov. 20, to extend the advisory commission's ability to meet through Sept. 25, 2028.
The commission has not met since September of 2018 when its 10-year authorization ran out. Established almost 60 years ago, the group typically meets with the Seashore superintendent four to six times a year to hear about projects within the park, and take an advisory role in land development, protection of natural resources and other issues.
The meeting schedule for the commission — made up of representatives of six towns from Chatham to Provincetown, two representatives of the state, one county representative and a chairperson appointed by the secretary of the Interior Department — has been sporadic since 2017. At that time, the Trump administration initiated a review of advisory commissions nationwide, during which time it was recommended that the Seashore commission authorization be allowed to expire.
The Seashore commission is "advisory only," Mary-Jo Avellar, a member of the advisory commission representing Provincetown, emphasized in an email Monday to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, the subcommittee chairman. Previous testimony by Dan Smith of the National Park Service calling the advisory commission unnecessary in meeting the needs of the Seashore such as reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance is erroneous, Avellar stated. Smith's idea to end commercial uses in the Seashore was also erroneous, she wrote.
"My sister and several friends had summer jobs there when we were in high school," Avellar stated, referring to a food stand in the Seashore. "That food stand is essential to the operation of the Seashore beaches and to the community at large. Removing it would be folly."
The one witness listed for the hearing was Shawn Benge, Acting Deputy Director of Operations, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.