The shacks were seized by eminent domain in the 1960s, but the occupants then were given leases, some long-term and some from year-to-year.
In an attempt to make the situation more stable, NPS wants to lease out the shacks in 10-year increments and has been giving tours of the buildings, some of which still have the belongings of their occupants inside. Now, current occupants must leave.
Among those affected is Salvatore Del Deo, a 94-year-old artist who has lived in a dune shack given to him by a friend for 77 years. Mr. Del Deo began helping maintain the first iteration of his shack for original owner Jeanne Schnell in 1946, who later willed the structure to Mr. Del Deo and his wife.
In the eyes of the National Park Service, however, the rightful heir of the shack’s lifetime lease was not Mr. Del Deo but Schnell’s daughter Adrienne. The younger Schnell died in 2016, with Mr. Del Deo continuing to pay taxes on the property, and the National Park Service did not learn of her death until recently.
When they found out, they barred Mr. Del Deo from the shack he had been using for more than seven decades. The elder Schnell’s remaining daughter wants Mr. Del Deo and family to remain in control of their shack; NPS has given them until Tuesday to remove their belongings and hand over the key.
“We’re not even allowed to bid [on the shack] right now. We don’t know when that might be possible, or under what conditions. We’re not their enemy. But we are being treated like their enemy. And we wish that they wouldn’t treat us that way,” Romolo Del Deo, Mr. Del Deo’s son, told the Boston Globe.
In a statement on Instagram, Mr. Del Deo and family remained defiant, arguing that removing the shacks would, while preserving the visual aesthetic of the shoreline, destroy the culture that has been built up there.
“We are intrinsic to the Cape Cod National Seashore. The park was created to preserve both the nature and the folklore, transforming the dune dwellings into a Potemkin village will not preserve them, the structures may endure but the culture will be broken,” Mr. Del Deo wrote.
Particularly galling to the Del Deo family is that Mr. Del Deo’s late wife Josephine was a major activist in getting Provincetown to cede the land that the shacks rest on to the Cape Cod National Seashore; the government at the time was seen as the lesser evil.
“They saw the park as the only solution to the overwhelming amount of people who came on the weekends, and the investors. The park would be the lesser evil because they will maintain the purity of the back shore,” Mr. Del Deo told WBZ-TV.
Mr. Del Deo told the Provincetown Independent that the NPS notice to leave is “a betrayal, really, of the goodwill that we all finally embraced with the park.”