THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANNING FOR OPEN SPACE
AND RECREATION IN THE TOWN OF DENNIS
It is through thoughtful planning and the oversight of the Dennis Natural Resource and Recreation Departments that Dennis’ open spaces, critical plant and animal habitats, neighborhood parks, and quality outdoor recreation facilities remain a part of our community’s landscapes. Without this planning and oversight, the appearance of the town, the quality of life of our residents, and the condition of our natural resources would be dramatically altered.
The town has many areas which exemplify the impacts of unchecked development during recent decades. The town has experienced periods of dramatic population increase, straining infrastructure and local resources and degrading the quality of life that originally attracted many people to Dennis. As a result, open space resources diminished and recreational facilities were overused.
The Open Space and Recreation Planning process provides the opportunity to assess where Dennis currently stands; where we would like to go; and how we will get there. Dennis has actively developed its Open Space and Recreation Plan over the past decade. The town has also aggressively followed this plan to protect important open space and recreational facilities such as open areas in Crowe’s Pasture and recreational areas such as Sea View Playland. The town leaders and residents understand that protecting these resources greatly enhances the attractiveness of Dennis.
This Open Space and Recreation Plan Update will provide a balance between the benefits of continued economic development and the protection of the town’s valued environmental assets. The document in combination with the Dennis Local Comprehensive Plan provides the framework for how we will use and protect our land. This planning allows us to confront and manage many aspects of the town’s growth and development in a way that preserves, protects, and enhances the environment. In addition to the specific measures identified in this Open Space and Recreation Plan one must consider the larger planning objectives of the Dennis Local Comprehensive Plan which has embraced smart growth, seeking to protect critical natural resources while encouraging high quality development in places where development should go, such as the village centers of Dennisport and West Dennis. Smart growth means identifying areas that should be protected as well as areas that can accommodate new development, such as in and around existing neighborhoods, on underutilized parcels, and other places where infrastructure exists. On the site-scale, development can be compatible with natural resource conservation.
The Town of Dennis has made use of many devices for the protection of important resources. The town has had an Open Space Residential Development zoning provision for more than two decades. The town made use of the Cape Cod Commission’s District of Critical Planning Concern as a mechanism to protect critical, sensitive lands from inappropriate development (protecting scenic vistas, archeological resources and coastal water recharge areas). The town has adopted a flexible zoning provision to promote quality affordable housing on smaller land areas as a means of meeting important housing shortages. The town has also adopted two village centers which promote mixed residential and commercial land uses in dense villages to promote live-work-shop areas which do not require the land areas of traditional single use development patterns.
The town has also made significant use of financial measures for protecting important aspects of the community. The town has adopted the Community Preservation Act, setting aside funds for open space and recreational land acquisition, making improvements to existing recreational areas, providing incentives for protecting the town’s historic character and for providing affordable housing opportunities. The town has also historically voted for general fund allocations for important land acquisitions – Melpet Farms being one such example. The town pursues available state and federal funding sources for land acquisition, Bass River Park in the West Dennis Village Center being a prime example of one such recent acquisition. Finally, the town also partners with land owners and the Dennis Conservation Trust to protect land through the use of conservation easements, Chapter 61A Agricultural Preservation Restrictions and other available tools.
Dennis also works regionally on open space preservation. The Dennis Natural Resources Department works with the Cape Cod Commission’s Pathways project, which is seeking to promote linked Cape Cod Greenways. The Dennis Water District has worked with the Town of Brewster to acquire important open space tracts of land, providing Brewster with protection from inappropriate development while protecting the water supply of the two towns. The town also worked cooperatively with the Town of Brewster to protect Crowe’s Pasture through the Cape Cod Commission’s District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) process and is now supporting Brewster in its own DCPC request. The town also has two historic districts, the Old King’s Highway Historic District and the South Dennis Historic District. The committees, representing these two districts, assist town planning officials in identifying and protecting cultural and historic resources.
The Dennis Open Space and Recreation Plan has proven to be a powerful tool to protect community resources. It establishes the town’s aspirations and recommends patterns of development that will support them. Having this document available helps the Community Preservation Committee prioritize the allocation of funds for land and recreational area protection and to advocate for the open space and recreation needs of Dennis.
Finally, keeping Dennis with an approved Open Space and Recreation Plan keeps the town eligible to apply for Land Acquisition for Natural Diversity (LAND) (formerly Self-Help grants), Parkland Acquisition and Renovation for Communities (PARC) (formerly Urban Self-Help grants), Land and Water Conservation Funds, and other grant programs administered by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Division of Conservation Services. These sources of revenue have been vitally important to the aggressive land protection efforts of the Town of Dennis.
The Dennis Planning, Natural Resources, Beach and Recreation Departments and the Harbormasters Office submit this document to the Town of Dennis with the support of the following town boards and committees:
- Planning Board
- Conservation Commission
- Beach and Recreation Commission
- Water Ways Committee
Edited May 11, 2009