Barnstable County is composed of the fifteen towns that are “Cape Cod.” The environment of Cape Cod is a fragile, unique and extremely valuable resource that must be preserved, protected and sustained for future generations. The coastal environment of the Cape has been attracting visitors from the U.S. and abroad for many decades. In recent years, the number of visitors and full-time residents has grown dramatically. Each year over 20 million visitors flock to the Cape. Population growth rates have doubled over the last 25 years from 100,000 to 215,000 year-round residents.
The continuing attraction of Cape Cod to tourists and residents has proven to be a mixed blessing, providing a valuable source of income, but also bringing an increase in development and commercialism that threatens the very elements most visitors and residents seek. At the inception of this program, there were 96,000 acres of land on the Cape that had been developed and 74,600 acres of land that could be developed. Nearly 56,000 acres of land, including 300 miles of shoreline and over 400 lakes and ponds, had been acquired by land trusts and the federal, state and local governments. Though the economic health of the Cape depends largely on tourism, the increasing numbers of residents and visitors flocking to the most fragile resources has resulted in environmental impacts which are difficult to manage for the current paid and volunteer staff of Cape Cod’s federal, state, County and town departments, non-profit organizations and community-based groups.
In 1999, responding to the need of the Cape’s environment and town and County departments, the Barnstable County Commissioners and the Resource Development Office proposed the creation of an AmeriCorps program comprised of environmentally-focused, well-trained adults to address Cape Cod’s critical environmental needs. Through a series of community meetings, Barnstable County built enthusiasm and support for the idea and enlisted interested environmental organizations and local governments as key collaborators. The County entered a partnership with the Job Training and Employment Corporation (JTEC) and the Cape Cod National Seashore to provide management, housing, and funding for the AmeriCorps program. The Resource Development Office wrote, submitted and consequently was awarded a three-year AmeriCorps grant by the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA). The grant included funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the state of Massachusetts, with matching funds coming from Barnstable County.
In 2000, the management of AmeriCorps Cape Cod became the sole responsibility of Barnstable County. Over the first three years of the program, dedicated staff and members worked diligently to establish a solid groundwork and proven track record of providing high quality environmental service and environmental education programs to the Cape Cod community.
In 2002, Barnstable County resubmitted a grant for the AmeriCorps Cape Cod program. The aftermath of September 11th demonstrated to communities throughout the country the necessity to establish sound disaster preparedness and response programs. Responding to the newly identified need, Barnstable County’s new AmeriCorps grant expanded the areas of member service to include disaster preparedness and response. AmeriCorps Cape Cod was once again awarded funding by the Massachusetts Service Alliance and the Corporation for National and Community Service, with matching funds provided by Barnstable County. The MSA, CNCS and Barnstable County continued to fund the AmeriCorps Cape Cod program through the end of the 2005-2006 (Year 7) program year. Corps members and staff strengthened the program’s environmental service, built relationships and service programs within the disaster preparedness and response fields. Additionally, the program began to expand its impact and involvement with community members by focusing on developing worthwhile opportunities for service for community members and visitors.
During the past eighteen years AmeriCorps Cape Cod has proven to be flexible, adaptable, and ready to support the Cape Cod community. In November of 2005 (Year 7), AmeriCorps Cape Cod was awarded a special one-year disaster initiative grant. The additional funding enabled the program to expand the Corps from 26 to 30 Corps members, allowing 4 members to serve solely with the Cape Cod and Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross. In 2012 (Year 14), AmeriCorps Cape Cod received funding to expand the total number of Corps members to 32, thus creating the special initiative known as the FireCorps. The six additional members served primarily with the Cape Cod National Seashore to address critical wildfire preparedness needs on Cape Cod. Over the years, each of these special initiatives has allowed Barnstable County and the AmeriCorps Cape Cod program to stay at the cutting edge of resource development in the County. All the while, the program remains dedicated and committed to its environmental and natural resource management foundation.
Program Funding and Support
AmeriCorps Cape Cod is funded by Barnstable County and through grants provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Massachusetts Service Alliance. Housing for Corps members and live-in program staff is provided by Barnstable County and the Cape Cod National Seashore. AmeriCorps is managed and operated by the Barnstable County Resource Development Office. Substantial support and oversight is provided by the Massachusetts Service Alliance.
The Corporation for National and Community Service
Created in 1993, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) provides opportunities for Americans of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities and country. Members and volunteers serve with national and community nonprofit organizations, faith-based groups, schools, and local agencies to help meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security, and other unmet human needs. The Corporation for National and Community Service is a public-private partnership that administers and partially funds three national service initiatives: AmeriCorps, which includes more than 400 local and national sponsors as well as AmeriCorps*VISTA, the AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps, and the Senior Corps.
AmeriCorps is a national service movement that engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to address the most critical problems in our nation’s communities in the areas of education, public safety, the environment, homeland security and other unmet human needs. During the 2016-2017 service year, the millionth AmeriCorps member will be inducted into service. Since AmeriCorps began in 1994, AmeriCorps Members have contributed more than 1.2 billion hours of service.
Massachusetts Service Alliance
The Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), established in 1991, is dedicated to creating and supporting high quality service and volunteer opportunities for all age groups, resulting in stronger communities and more active citizens. MSA achieves this mission by distributing federal and state funds in grants, providing technical assistance, and offering training and educational opportunities to more than 200 service and volunteerism programs across the state. The Massachusetts Service Alliance is the state commission for service in Massachusetts and is responsible for ensuring programmatic adherence to AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Learn and Serve guidelines. The MSA partially funds and oversees over 20 AmeriCorps programs across the state.
National Park Service, Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore was established by act of Congress in 1961 to protect the unique environmental and historical treasures of Cape Cod’s “outer” and “lower” regions. Comprised of 43,604 acres, the National Seashore includes diverse landscape features such as a 40 mile stretch of pristine sandy beach (the longest expanse of uninterrupted sandy shoreline on the East Coast), dozens of clear, deep, freshwater kettle ponds, and upland scenes that depict evidence of how people have used the land. The Seashore offers six swimming beaches, eleven self-guiding nature trails, and a variety of picnic areas and scenic overlooks. A variety of historic structures are within the boundary of the Seashore, including lighthouses, a lifesaving station, and numerous Cape Cod style houses. The Seashore provides AmeriCorps Cape Cod two of these houses, the Wellfleet house and the Wells’ house as Corps member residences.
Barnstable County Resource Development Office
AmeriCorps Cape Cod is just one of the regional projects developed by the Barnstable County Resource Development Office (RDO). RDO was established in 1993 to creatively address regional community needs and resource development opportunities. The office’s main areas of focus are the 15 towns of Cape Cod and the departments of Barnstable County. The Resource Development Office encourages regional solutions to common problems by providing:
- Grant Administration
- Program Development
- Grant Resource and Writing
- Technical Assistance
- Funding Alternatives and Opportunities
- Outreach to All Towns