Thank you President Kennedy for a great vacation
From personal knowledge I realize very well how useful this is going to be for the people of the Cape and Massachusetts and New England and the entire United States. —President John F. Kennedy upon signing the Cape Cod National Seashore bill
I just got back from a one-week vacation to Cape Cod, and my favorite place on Earth, Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Mass. A beautiful spot on the Atlantic Ocean, the beach is graced with soft white sand, rollicking blue waves, nesting birds, and an occasional group of bobbing seals.
If it weren’t for President Kennedy though, I and millions of others would probably never get to experience this blissful piece of paradise in its pristine natural condition.
Most likely the beach would be studded now with expensive mega hotels and mansions with private beachfronts hogging up the shoreline. But fortunately that did not come to pass.
President John F. Kennedy signed the Cape Cod National Seashore bill in 1961, preserving and protecting 40 miles of shoreline along Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Overseen by the National Park Service, the land is open for all of us to enjoy today.
It wasn’t an easy task to protect this property, most of which was owned by private entities in 1961.
In 1959, Kennedy, a Senator whose family had a famous compound in Hyannisport, and fellow Massachusetts Senator Leverett Saltonstall, crafted a Senate bill calling for the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
In 1960, the bill was not voted on and it died in a congressional subcommittee.
But the bill was reintroduced by representatives from Massachusetts on January 3, 1961, the first day of the 87th Congress. On June 27, the Senate passed it unanimously. A few weeks later, the House passed a similar bill.
On August 7, just seven months after moving into the White House, President Kennedy signed the Cape Cod National Seashore Park bill into law.
The bill protects 40 miles of land — more than 43,000 acres of property — across the Cape Cod shoreline in Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. It includes many beaches, including Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, where in 1903, the first transatlantic wireless communication originating in the United States was successfully transmitted from President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The bill also protects ponds, marshes, and woods.
So the next time you travel to Cape Cod (and I truly hope you do visit there someday) take a moment as you smile at the gorgeous blue waves to thank President Kennedy.
Aug. 7, 1961: John F. Kennedy’s remarks on signing the bill creating the Cape Cod National Seashore Park
I WOULD LIKE to make a brief statement. Today, in signing S. 857, an act to authorize the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park, I join the Congress and hope that this will be one of a whole series of great seashore parks which will be for the use and benefit of all of our people.
This act makes it possible for the people of the United States through their Government to acquire and preserve the natural and historic values of a portion of Cape Cod for the inspiration and enjoyment of people all over the United States.
This is a wise use of our natural resources, and I am sure that future generations will benefit greatly from the wise action taken by the Members of the Congress who are here today.
I commend the Congress for giving very careful judgment in balancing off public needs in the interests of people who live in this section of the Cape, and I think that they have done an admirable job in serving both interests in this piece of legislation.
I cosponsored, as a Member of the Senate, a similar bill. It is a very old part of the United States, and I must say that from personal knowledge I realize very well how useful this is going to be for the people of the Cape and Massachusetts and New England and the entire United States.
There are Members of Congress here today from Texas and Colorado and Utah who have seen in their own States the tremendous contribution which these national parks can make. If we are going to double the population in another 50 years or so, we can get some idea of how important preserving this section for all the people will be.
I think we are going to need a good deal more effort like this, particularly in the more highly developed urban areas, where so many millions of people now live, and work out the means of securing the advantages of recreation and leisure which these areas can bring. So I know that the Government and the Congress will work together in seeing how they can carry on similar projects in other parts of the country.
This is a matter of great interest to me, and I express my appreciation to the Members of the Congress and to the chairmen of the committees, and to those Members of Congress particularly, as I said, from not only Massachusetts who worked hard on it in a bipartisan spirit but from all sections of the country who strongly supported this legislation.
Note: As enacted, S. 857 is Public Law 87-126 (75 Stat. 284).
Citation: John F. Kennedy: “Remarks Upon Signing Bill Authorizing the Cape Cod National Seashore Park.,” August 7, 1961. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8273.