The Town of Dennis is a community with a careful balance of land preservation and economic development. While much of the private land holdings are developed, the town has gone to great efforts to review the remaining undeveloped parcels to determine their value, if any, for open space preservation, water supply protection and recreational opportunities. The town is cognizant of the fact that a significant portion of its housing stock consists of second homes, used only during the summer season. These second home owners place two significant burdens on the town, in terms of preservation. First, the town must ensure that the beaches, golf courses and open areas that attract these seasonal residents to the community are protected to ensure the continued health of the town’s seasonal economy. Second, the town needs to consider the potential future needs, for open spaces, water supply etc. that may occur if these second homes ever became used as year-round homes.

The town has been very aggressive in the implementation of the open space and recreation recommendations found in the 1998 and 2003 Open Space and Recreation Plan Updates. This plan serves as an update to those two plans, highlighting the accomplishments, noting areas where additional work may be necessary, and identifying new goals as needed for the town to pursue in the future. The plan builds upon the 1998 and 2003 updates and their earlier versions completed in 1984 and 1986. The plan is also intended to meet the state’s March 2008 Open Space and Recreation Plan Requirements. The update, as with earlier plans, incorporates goals of protecting natural resources, conserving open space and providing a varied recreation program. The plan seeks to address these goals simultaneously where possible by encouraging preservation of open space, while allowing opportunities for its enjoyment through modest improvements which provide access for passive recreation.

This update presents continued participation in the Cape Cod Pathways trail network, and incorporates goals for accessibility for both recreation and open space facilities. There continues to be an emphasis on open space preservation by means other than direct acquisition, for instance, through conservation restrictions, donation, zoning techniques, etc., in response to current economic conditions. However, it recognizes the importance of acquisition when necessary to preserve critical resources.

Public participation is an important part of the plan. This update includes a new community needs and priorities survey. Residents were asked to assess the condition of town facilities and to provide recommendations as to the priority of expenditures on open space and recreation. The survey was responded to by over 130 year round and seasonal residents. The survey was distributed in many ways, including at the Fall 2007 Special Town Meeting, via email, the town website and placing copies in public buildings such as town hall and the libraries. The survey tally is based upon those who chose to fill out the form and return it to town hall.

All of the town’s open space provide opportunities for recreational activities. Newly acquired areas, such as Sea View Playland underwent a two year review by a committee established to study the future uses for this property. In the end, the recommendations included an active recreational play ground in the northerly portion of the property, passive recreation in the middle of the area, and use of the beach for swimming. Bass River Park, another recent acquisition has been similarly studied by a committee established to look at how the town could use that property. The recommendations include expanding the town boat slips by allowing the Harbormaster to make use of the slips that were located on the property at the time it was acquired, leasing a portion of the property for the operation of a kayak rental business, and incorporating a boardwalk and picnic areas.

The plan represents the combined efforts of several town committees and departments, including the Recreation Commission, Beach Commission, Conservation Commission, Community Preservation Committee, Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator’s Office, Town Planner’s Office, Natural Resources Department, Department of Public Works, Harbormaster’s Office and the Beach and Recreation Department.

The Open Space and Recreation Plan serves as an element of the Dennis Local Comprehensive Plan (LCP). The LCP was endorsed by Dennis Town Meeting on September 23, 2002. The Local Comprehensive Plan serves as the town’s response to the Cape Cod Regional Policy Plan to guide planning and growth decisions overall for the town.

Approval of this update by the state Division of Conservation Services will enable the town to continue to be eligible for land acquisition and recreational facility reimbursement funding through programs, such as Land Acquisition for Natural Diversity (LAND) (formerly Self Help), Parkland Acquisition and Renovation for Communities (PARC) (formerly Urban Self Help) and the Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund. The town has been very successful in acquiring funds from these funding sources and recently aided the town in its acquisition of Bass River Park (FY 06 Urban Self Help Grant) and Sea View Playland.

Edited May 11, 2009


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