“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear” – Buffalo Springfield

There is a lot going on, and if it feels like the sand is shifting beneath your feet, it is. The changes driven by the pandemic response have touched everyone and have altered routines, big and small. We are all dealing with the implications to our daily lives, so you don’t need me to tell you what is happening to you and what it means. What I can point out to you, though, is that Cape Cod remains an attractive destination and is increasingly seen as a safe place to be during troubled times. The implications are unclear, but the seeds of change for the future of the Cape are being planted right now. APCC is paying attention because there is both danger and opportunity in the days ahead and the voice for the environment needs to be participating in the discussion.

In no particular order, here are some things we see that are shifting:

Despite restrictions, people still want to come to the Cape. It is busy here and public open spaces are being utilized at unprecedented rates. The appreciation of open lands, access to water and clean ponds, bays and oceans has never been higher than it is now.

The housing market is changing, again. Second homes have become refuges from urban areas perceived to be unsafe. With the advent of remote learning and working, some families are making their second homes their primary home. Many others are looking at purchasing homes here with the intent to relocate to the Cape. What this shift means for the housing market, the seasonal rental market, the local economy and traffic patterns bears watching, but it appears to have the potential to be a seismic demographic shift that will jumble a lot of things.

The rental market is hot. While the losses of the spring cannot be recovered, the prospect is that demand will be high for the summer, and who knows what the early fall will bring. This is good news for renters and the towns that will use the income generated by the short term rental tax to fund their water quality programs. It also proves that the short term rental tax didn’t make Cape Cod an undesirable place to vacation. I had gotten pretty sick of hearing that false narrative and celebrate its demise.

Traffic remains an issue. The summer peaks are what they are, but if you thought you imagined higher than normal volumes during the spring, you were not imagining anything. There were more people here in the spring escaping urban settings and the traffic reflected that reality. If there is a population shift that is more permanent, it makes one wonder what the implications to traffic patterns will be and how we will react to them as a region. And the bridges remain an issue, but big changes are afoot. There is real momentum for new bridges to replace the almost 100 year-old hulks we rely on now. Just this week there is news that the Army Corps of Engineers and the Commonwealth have agreed to transfer ownership of new bridges to the state. That’s a big deal, one with huge implications.

Local governance is changing in response to social distancing requirements. The process of governance is important, as it impacts who makes decisions and how they are taken. There is a lot at stake. We are also getting a sense of how local governments use and interpret science-based public policy decision making. While the immediate application of these lessons is related to Covid-19, there are big implications when one thinks about how the mindset and approach being revealed now will be applied to the challenges of water quality and climate change. We are seeing how elected leaders factor scientific reality into their decision making, and there is objective evidence accumulating that there is room for improvement to give data and science-based evidence greater weight in the decision making process.

My list above just scratches the surface, but it is plenty long enough to keep APCC busy in 2020 and beyond. This is why we are here.

“It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down” – Buffalo Springfield