Over the two days of this year’s OneCape Summit, a clear and consistent message was heard from state, local and regional leaders: Cape communities live up to the conference’s name, speaking as one Cape on key issues.
The design of this year’s OneCape summit, hosted annually by the Cape Cod Commission, sought to reinforce that theme, inviting towns and community-based organizations to develop many of the sessions presented.
Held August 16 and 17 at the Wequassett Resort in Harwich, the Summit focused broadly on environmental and economic themes with featured presentations on water quality, coastal resiliency, infrastructure planning, community design, and economic development across Cape Cod.
OneCape brought together over 300 attendees representing federal, state, and local officials, municipal staff, board members, community activists, and members of the business community.
The first day of OneCape focused on water quality and coastal resilience. Executive Director Kristy Senatori set the stage for the day by defining resilience for Cape Cod and how we can better prepare our region for environmental and economic stressors- “We need to design resilient communities that can easily adapt to change.”
Secretary Matthew Beaton commended the 15 towns on their progress in implementing the 208 Plan and encouraged continued investment into wastewater solutions, including innovative approaches like the recently established watershed permit.
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito expressed continued support and encouragement for the development of strategies for ongoing resilience planning initiatives. Governor Charlie Baker discussed the recent environmental bond bill and emphasized that planning efforts should be locally-driven with support from regional and state agencies.
Other speakers included Cape Cod Commission staff members; John Holdren, former science and technology advisor to President Barack Obama; Andrew Gottlieb, Executive Director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod; and Cape & Islands State Senator Julian Cyr.
As in past Summits, attendees had the opportunity to interact with the Commission’s online planning tools and attend break-out sessions led by national and regional experts.
The second day of the summit focused on the economy and community resiliency. Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash encouraged attendees to recognize what they have. The Cape has something people want – recreation. He emphasized the need to focus on downtowns. People want to be in centers of activity and in areas where they have access to recreation.
Kennedy Smith, a nationally recognized urban planner, provided examples from across the nation of how smaller downtowns are addressing retail’s changing and challenging landscape. With humor and insight drawn from more than 30 years, she provided examples of successful strategies to rebuild vibrant downtowns while retaining historic contexts. Kristy Senatori discussed the update to the Cape Cod Regional Policy Plan, which seeks to focus growth in existing centers of activity, while protecting our important natural and historic resources.
The afternoon plenary session included a conversation with Dan Wolf, CEO of Cape Air, and Dorothy Savarese, CEO of Cape Cod 5, on building economic resilience in the region.
Paul Niedzwiecki, former executive director of the Cape Cod Commission and current Executive Director of Southfield Redevelopment Authority, discussed the regional challenges around balancing the environment and the economy. “Anyone that views all development as bad creates an inherent conflict between the people and the place they’re trying to protect; the question isn’t if there should be development, the question is where it should happen.”
Niedzwiecki was also honored as this year’s OneCape Award recipient for his years of dedication to Cape Cod in his 10 years leading the Commission.
The day wrapped up with a panel on regional capital infrastructure with Cape Cod Commission, Transportation Program Manager, Steven Tupper, and Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.