A. Description of Process
The planning process for the 2008 Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan has combined a number of avenues to attract public input. Most important of these were the use of a new community needs survey in 2007 and the creation of an internet based discussion group. In order to determine what the people of Dennis want with respect to conservation, recreation and open space in their town, the Town of Dennis conducted a survey in 2007 which asked residents how they felt about acquiring additional open space and what improvements they felt were needed with open space and recreation lands and in programs. The results of this survey were compiled and followed in drafting the updated document.
In general, the public seemed less satisfied with the town’s offerings of open space and recreation compared to the 1995 survey. Beaches are rated in good condition, while parks and playgrounds, boat facilities and general open space rated only fair. The greatest land acquisition needs in town are seen as being general open space and additional beaches. The greatest facility open space and recreational facility needs are considered to be bike trails, followed by conservation areas, local neighborhood parks, public access to the water and a recreation center building. Improving and maintaining local recreation facilities and conservation lands have increased in priority. Finally, there remains resistance to additional tax increases as the primary means of paying for open space acquisition.
B. Statement of Open Space and Recreation Goals
The uniqueness of Dennis lies in its large areas of protected open space, used passively and actively, despite being, overall, one of Cape Cod’s most densely developed towns. One could argue that it was because of Dennis’s intensely felt development pressures over the years that led to the strong citizen support to set aside parcels against that development. One need only wander in the maze of small-lot residential streets near Route 28 to appreciate how important “breathing space” can be to a Dennis resident. It can still be found at the major beaches, but also in the preserved woodlands of the interior.
Dennis’s challenge is to preserve the natural, scenic and recreational opportunities in the town while meeting significant economic development needs such as steady job growth and the provision of affordable housing. It is very clear that providing recreational opportunities for its citizens and visitors is more than a matter of placing saltwater beach maps in the hands of all. The ability to provide pocket parks of open space in dense subdivisions is important, after all, this is where most of the people are. Dennisport and Dennis Village still need some active facilities placed in their domain. There are opportunities to bring open space to the people, by way of pathways and bike trails, instead of sending people off to find the open space.
The town goals, as identified through the completed survey are as follows:
- Acquiring more land for open space and conservation purposes remains a high priority in the town, supported by 71% of those responding to the survey. This plan identifies some areas within which such acquisitions should be focused. The survey found that the greatest priority for acquisition of land was for the protection of the town’s water supply. This was followed by acquiring such land for open space protection. A significant finding from the survey is that the respondents even rated open space protection as a (slightly) higher priority than preserving the historical structures of the town.
- Maintain and improve existing open space and recreational facilities. The survey clearly found that residents were dissatisfied with the conditions of existing facilities. The survey, in fact only confirmed comments that town officials had already been hearing. For the past several years, everytime an open space acquisition was contemplated residents raised the question about acquiring more lands, when we were having difficulty maintaining what we have. The survey makes it clear that residents want the town to maintain existing town lands, and to target, at least in the near future, recreational facilities onto lands already owned by the town.
- The greatest facility needs that the town should work on in the next five years include the provision of bicycle facilities, more conservation areas, improved public access to the water for fishing and boating, providing local neighborhood parks and providing a recreation center building.
Edited May 26, 2009