History / Ecology

Cape Cod was created by the retreat of glaciers at the end of the last ice age. One could say it's a fairly recent phenomenon, and scientists predict that it will be gone in 6,000 years through erosion. Native people lived in small settlements, hunting, fishing and farming in what clearings could be created with stone tools. Great hardwood forests came in some cases right down to the shoreline. When Europeans settled the area the forest was quickly cut down for boat and home building as well a for fire wood. The scrub forest we see today has mostly grown up since the 1950s at which time the landscape was mostly open rolling moors. The Cape Cottages settlers built were simple post and beam houses clad in shingles of clapboards. There is a long tradition of provisional buildings on the Cape. Buildings were often 'flaked' or taken apart and moved via wagon of barge to new locations and reconfigured as shifting shorelines, economics or desire dictated. Components from wrecked ships were also ofter incorporated due to a scarcity of timbers. Yankee ingenuity and frequent hard times on the Cape led to many inventive building types , such as and small rescue stations for wreck survivors, and
oyster shacks which sat on stilts in the harbor to receive the fisherman's catch. The outer Cape became an art colony around the 1900 and then in the 1930s attracted a group of American and European architects who found very inexpensive land, a sympathetic community and natural beauty. The houses they built were a hybrid of high-concept modernism and prosaic vernacular structures creating a local sub-genre of experimental summer houses. (For more on this please see CCMHT website). When the Cape Cod National Seashore was created in 1961, more than half of Wellfleet became protected Park land, freezing all new development within it's boundaries. This has put development pressure on the rest of the town. There is very little unbuilt land in town and many smaller houses have been torn down to build large, expensive houses which are mostly only used during summer. Most of the children of local families can not afford to buy a starter house and so, leave the Cape. As a result the Cape's population is falling and becoming older. Temporary, seasonal workers are brought in due to the lack of young people, and positions such as police and teachers are difficult to fill due to a lack of affordable housing. This eventually leads to a loss of age / class / racial diversity and economic stagnation.

Wellfleet Forum on affordable housing (p1)
Wellfleet Forum on affordable housing (p2)

Ecology /resources
The fresh water aquifer under the Cape is under stress in a number of ways. Since the Cape is basically a sand bar, pollutants such as oil, old spent munitions and sewage, travel laterally and can contaminate well water. Many  outdated, residential septic systems are leaking, causing nitrate loading and degradation of ponds and saltwater marshes (please see Cape Cod Groundwater Guardian Team's website). Some Cape towns have installed municipal water and septic treatment systems but the cost and of these and the difficulty of servicing a widely dispersed rural population are great. Composting toilets, use of grey water and water catchment systems are being encouraged by Wellfleet's health department. Wellfleet has good wind resources and though large off-shore wind farms have been controversial, small private, helical turbines are beginning to appear. There are tax breaks for installing solar arrays though many sites are too thickly wooded for this to be practical.