Barnstable County is composed of the fifteen towns that make up Cape Cod. Cape Cod’s environment is an extremely valuable and fragile resource that must be protected and sustained for future generations. The coastal environment of the Cape has attracted millions of visitors from the U.S. and abroad for many decades. According to the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, tourism creates $1.3 billion in spending by domestic travelers, supports 12,000 jobs and generates more than $89 million in state and local tax receipts.
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 significant environmental impacts. The effects of increased development can be difficult to manage for Cape Cod’s federal, state, County and town departments, non-profit groups who manage these highly visited areas.
In response to the Cape’s environmental threats, the Barnstable County’s Resource Development Office proposed the creation of an AmeriCorps program in 1999. The program comprised of well-trained adults to address Cape Cod’s critical environmental needs. Through a series of community meetings, Barnstable County cultivated enthusiasm and support for the idea while enlisting interested environmental organizations and local governments as key collaborators. Partnerships with the Job Training and Employment Corporation (JTEC) and the Cape Cod National provided the initial management, housing, and funding for the start of the program.
Barnstable County’s Resource Development Office applied for and 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) and the State of Massachusetts, with matching funds coming from Barnstable County.
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 established a solid groundwork and proven track record of providing high quality environmental service to the Cape Cod community. In 2002, Barnstable County resubmitted a grant for the AmeriCorps Cape Cod program. The aftermath of September 11th demonstrated 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.
Over the past 23 years, AmeriCorps Cape Cod has proven to be flexible, adaptable, and ready to support the Cape Cod community. There have been several instances where the program has transformed to address critical needs, like providing 4 members to serve solely with the Cape Cod and Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross or expanding the total number of Corps creating the special initiative known as the FireCorps. Each of these special initiatives has allowed the AmeriCorps Cape Cod program to stay at the cutting edge of disaster response while remaining dedicated to its environmental and natural resource management foundation.
Program Funding and Support
AmeriCorps Cape Cod is funded by Barnstable County and through a grant provided by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Housing for Corps members and live-in program staff is provided by Barnstable County, the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Town of Barnstable, and the Chatham Conservation Foundation, Inc. AmeriCorps is managed and operated by the Barnstable County Commissioners’ Office with support from the Massachusetts Service Alliance.