Nineteen shacks that once were used by famous writers and artists sit within the rolling dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore. These historic structures have been a source of conflict among dune dwellers, local communities, and the National Park Service since the park’s founding in 1961. As the original owners begrudgingly shifted management of the shacks to the National Seashore, difficult questions arose. Who should maintain these delicate wooden structures amid the harsh ocean environment? Who should have the right to occupy them, under what conditions, and when? What, if any, is the historic and cultural obligation of the park to the families of the original owners? After decades of conflict and impasses, the park turned to CBI for help.   


In 2009, the superintendent of the Cape Cod National Seashore hired CBI to facilitate collaborative development of a plan to establish how the park would maintain the dune shacks, including the buildings and their adjacent landscape, and how visitors could use the district in a manner consistent with important traditions and historic qualities. The greatest challenge was devising a method for determining occupancy of the shacks.

Under the park’s general advisory committee, CBI convened a subcommittee consisting of representatives from:

  • established dune-dwelling families;
  • the towns of Truro and Provincetown;
  • the three nonprofit organizations that provide art, writing, and general public residencies;
  • interested businesses;
  • the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission;
  • Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and
  • the National Seashore historian.

Over a year, the subcommittee told their stories and discussed resource protection, historic structure preservation, and perpetuation of traditions. They sought acceptable long-term options for public access, management models and mechanisms, transition between uses and users, and compliance. CBI encouraged participants to respect each other’s views and helped the group develop a management framework that integrated the multiple threads of the shacks’ history.


In July 2010, the subcommittee produced consensus recommendations that included both a framework and criteria for stewardship and occupancy; opportunities for public access; models for transitions of dune shacks; a repair and maintenance guide; and provisions for protecting natural and cultural resources. With minor changes, this report was accepted by the advisory committee and was integrated into the park’s final plan.