National Park Service offering historic Cape Cod dune shacks for lease, frustrating long-time occupants

The National Park Service is offering proposals from prospective lessees for eight historic dune shacks along the Cape Cod National Seashore in Provincetown and Truro, Massachusetts

And while the government has said the fair market value for the shacks is between just $2,000 and $16,000 a year, depending on the size of the dwelling. 

The shacks are extremely rustic, most with limited running water and electricity, and most of current lessees use outhouses. 

The remote buildings are open to all bidders "as-is with all faults" and the lessees are expected to maintain the shacks and pay for repairs. Maintenance often includes sand removal, as the shifting dunes can cover a shack. 

The shacks have an illustrious history and were used for decades as retreats for writers and artists like Jack Kerouac, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Jackson Pollock.


NPS's release on the leasing opportunity adds: "The dune shacks are small, weathered, and often built on pilings to adjust for the ever-moving sand dunes surrounding these properties. The houses are remote, with no paved roads leading to them. Access is required by foot or by 4x4 vehicle along the park’s Oversand corridor. There is limited running water, plumbing, and electrical fixtures in most of the shacks."

But some locals are frustrated the Park Service offering up the dune shacks for open bidding because families have reportedly been living in them for decades.

Andrew Clemons told WBZ-TV that his family has been taking care of one of the dune shacks that’s up for lease since the 1970s. 

"Not only have I been coming here as a kid, but this is where the story of me kind of started," Clemons told the station. "My Dad's friend Andy said, 'I think this is my shack. If you help me dig it out [after it was covered by sand], I will let you live in it. 50 years later we are still out here." 

He said the government took ownership of the shacks by eminent domain in the 1960s and planned to demolish them before locals protested to have them saved in a 1989 legal battle. 

"A lot of the people who stayed after all of these years are the ones who have the actual deed to their property," he added. 

The Provincetown Independent also claimed that the NPS is ignoring a 163-page agreement from 2012 that specifies how the shacks should be offered for lease and how leasing proposals should be evaluated. 


But Cape Cod National Seashore Administrative Officer Stacey Ferguson told the newspaper that they had the opportunity to have a say in the proposal criteria but chose not to – even though it differed from the 2012 agreement.

"We were given the opportunity to weigh in," Ferguson told the Independent. "If there were larger changes or other pieces that we wanted to change, we were able to advocate for those changes. It was a very collaborative process, and all the concerns and criteria that the Park wanted to see represented are represented."

NPS told WBZ that the shack residents have known about the leasing framework since 2011. 

Fox News Digital has reached out to the NPS for comment. 

Michela Murphy, of Provincetown’s historic district commission, told the newspaper she feels the NPS’s proposal plan puts "profits over preservation."


"I feel the [proposal plan] as written does a complete disservice to the cultural landscape of the dunes," Murphy said. "It puts profit over preservation — it essentially allows any person who has a good amount of money to say, ‘Hey, we have the money — we can hire staff to maintain it.'"

NPS is accepting leasing proposals until July 3. 

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