Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 20, 2012

Cape Cod; Sad Scene, Demolitions Begin.

Attached from the Cape Cod Times:

zing of Chatham cottages begins

Top Photo
The gutted North Beach home of Arthur Bloomer gives way to cranes as the Cape Cod National Seashore launches the first demolition of a North Beach house Monday. Five houses are slated to be torn down and removed, with the goal of one cottage a day while good weather holds.Cape Cod times/Merrily Cassidy

CHATHAM — At the start of the day Monday, there were 11 cottages standing on North Beach island. By day’s end, there were 10.

A demolition crew hired by the Cape Cod National Seashore arrived on the island early Monday morning on two barges, unloaded a large backhoe, a front-end loader and around 20 metal Dumpsters.

“With good weather, they hope to do a cottage a day,” said Richard Chilcoat, chief of construction and conservation for the Park Service’s Northeast Region.

Even with a mild winter almost over, the Park Service insists the type of violent erosion and storm waves that created the island when it punched a hole in the barrier beach in April 2007 could destroy the cottages, similar to the No Name Storm of 1991 that wiped all but one structure off the beach.

Seashore officials want the cottages torn down to avoid any environmental damage, navigation hazards and the costly post-storm cleanup they would be obliged to undertake.

Although there were 10 park rangers on hand to keep the peace, they mostly sat in resin lawn chairs or on driftwood logs out of the wind, watching the work, since no cottage owners or tenants were on hand. Like Bob Crowell, they probably found it too heartbreaking to watch.

“It’s devastating,” Crowell said Monday by phone. His father built the first camp the family used out on North Beach in 1960 when Crowell was just 5 years old.

“I’ve been going out there since I was old enough to remember,” he said.

In the 1970s, the Seashore began enforcing rules that homes in the park furnish proof they were built before the 1959 building deadline that Congress included in the legislation that created the park to discourage speculators. If homeowners couldn’t demonstrate they’d built before the deadline, or that they owned the property, they were paid market price for the home and offered the option of lifetime or 25-year leases. When those leases ran out several years ago, the park agreed to lease the cottages to the former North Beach owners as tenants at will for $8,000 a year.

That solution worked for a few summers until Price’s announcement in September that the tenants had 30 days to remove their possessions, and that the park was going ahead with demolition.

Crowell’s cottage will likely be one of the last to go, but he’s not holding out any hope there will be a reprieve. Chatham selectmen were supportive of allowing tenants another year and they helped the island’s six private cottage owners and five tenant families to apply for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. An appeal as a historic district was ongoing even as the first cottage was being ripped down Monday.

Two last-minute permit snafus were ironed out by town officials. Chatham Harbormaster Stu Smith granted the project mooring permits for the two barges, two tugs and a fishing vessel escort. And on Monday morning, Chatham Police Chief Mark Pawlina informed the Park Service that they did not need the special permit required to bring heavy equipment onshore to do maintenance and repair work.

And so, by late afternoon, the mechanical claw of the backhoe excavator stood poised to attack the cottage of Arthur Bloomer. With the windows removed and the interior emptied of appliances and furniture, stripped of drywall and insulation, what had once been a sturdy structure capable of withstanding some of the most ferocious winds and weather the Atlantic could muster seemed suddenly fragile.

The big claw took bites out of the roof, the heavy roof joists snapping. The structure shuddered when the ridge beam snapped, sagging like a fatally wounded beast.

On the other side of the island, where the Crowell home awaited a similar fate, a gentle summer-like breeze out of the southwest stroked the beach grass, and the sound of the backhoe and the forklift was more like the background noise that occasionally drifts from the mainland on a summer’s day. It was possible to tune it out and hear only the creaking of a tiny bird in a stand of scrub brush, or the sound of waves visible over a small dune.

“It’s a beautiful place and we loved it year-round,” Crowell said. “It’s been a huge part of my family life. There’s so few places like that anymore.”

The scene yesterday morning on North Beach:


Read more in “Storm Surge,” and “Sea Level Rising; The Chatham Story.” See UPNE and Schifferbooks tabs at the top of this page. 


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