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Opponents of new dune shack policy make their voices heard

Mary Bergman

The new policy on who gets to use the dune shacks in the Cape Cod National Seashore, and how much they pay for that privilege, has led to a wave of opposition that threatens the solitude of the Outer Cape.

A demonstration is set for Saturday, July 15th to draw attention to what many say will contribute to a loss of a Cape Cod tradition in which artists and writers find a place to create in solitude.

The most visible sign of the change in policy is the eviction of 94-year-old artist and restaurant operator Salvatore Del Deo from the shack he and his family have used since the 1940s. That was long before the Cape Cod National Seashore existed.

The National Park Service contended that arrangements made with the original owner of the Del Deo shack are no longer valid since the death of that person, who held a life estate for use of the shack.

The NPS says Del Deo has been occupying the property without a permit.

According to its website, the Park Service’s new policy allows potential shack dwellers to bid competitively for a ten-year lease on one of eight dune shacks in Truro and Provincetown.

“The opportunity to submit a proposal to lease any of these eight properties is competitive and is open to all interested persons and businesses,” the website says.

That does not sit well with Romolo Del Deo, Salvatore’s son.

“Somebody in a bureaucratic office in Philadelphia or D.C. took it into their heads that this was not the ideal relationship and the shacks should be treated like some kind of real estate with no cultural, no folkloric traditions,” Romolo Del Deo said.

Recently, the Del Deos rejected an offer of a two-year lease on the shack, saying it would be unfair to others who also face eviction.

Romolo Del Deo told CAI he does not want to see the dune shacks contribute to the unaffordability of Cape Cod for many people.

“They’re going to wipe out an entire community an entire cultural legacy. And they are going to replace it with what we already have a lot of on Cape Cod which is not a bad thing, but it’s nice to have variety. We have a lot of beautiful real estate by the water going for very high market values. The duty, the obligation and the mission of the Cape Cod National Seashore is not to create more fancy real estate by the water but to preserve our nature and our culture, our folklore and our traditions.”

Del Deo will be joined by others who share his views on Saturday, July 15 for what’s being called a “Protest to Save Our Shacks.”

Demonstrators will gather from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, at the Junction of Bradford St and Province Lands Road at the Provincetown moors.

Parking in that area is limited and organizers are planning a shuttle to take people to and from the demonstration site. They urge people to park legally and walk to the area, which is accessible by foot or bicycle.

John Basile is the local host of All Things Considered weekday afternoons and a reporter.