In the wake of last week’s tornadoes, local leaders and state officials gathered at the OneCape summit in Harwich to talk about the environmental and economic challenges facing Cape Cod.
The 6th annual event, put on by the Cape Cod Commission, brought together more than 300 leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sector.
Kristy Senatori, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission said the true focus of the summit was to develop strategies for balancing the needs of the environment with the realities of the economy.
“Certainly our challenge as a region is to keep a special place special,” she said. “We all want to live, work, and recreate on the Cape, so making sure that we address some of our most pressing challenges... makes sense.”
One of the major themes of the two-day event was equity and the limited supply of housing on the Cape.
Paul Niedzwiecki, Vice President of Cape Cod Healthcare and former executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, said these issues will require a commitment across and throughout the 15 Cape communities.
“Whether it’s housing, climate change, climate adaptation, [or] coastal resilience, these are the difficult things that we need to tackle.... We need to make sure we have enough people that are willing to get into the arena.”
The attendees discussed clean water solutions, coastal resilience, and ongoing environmental and cultural threats posed by climate change.
Dorothy Savarese, president and CEO of Cape Cod Five, described the connections and collaborations she saw forming as the most inspiring part of the summit.
“I was just in a session where somebody heard two really important pieces of information and said, ‘I have a great idea of how we can tie this into getting solar to persons of low and moderate income.’ And so it’s that ideation that’s actually going to let us move our communities forward,” she said.
More than 86 percent of the Cape is either already developed or protected, so one big question posed to the attending group of activists, officials, and industry leaders was: what should we do with the remainder?
No matter the answer, Savarese said, we need to act, and fast.
“We are at a tipping point and if we don’t take on these challenges together as a community in an innovative and creative way, we stand potentially losing this very special place.”