Friday, August 26, 2011
As sun sets, APCC honors its heroes
Guardians of this “land of sand and water”

What state Sen. Dan Wolf called “the most environmentally committed group on Cape Cod” saluted four of its BFFs Aug. 24 at Harbor Point in Cummaquid.

To translate from texting lingo, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod’s Best Friends Forever were former state Sen. Rob O’Leary, retired newspaper editor Janice Walford, salt marsh volunteer coordinator David Carlson and Maggie Geist, the retiring director of APCC.

With a painterly Cape Cod view of Sandy Neck as backdrop, speakers stressed the non-profit’s role in scouting out and then leading the charge to address challenges to the region’s well being.

Wolf called the roll of O’Leary’s legislative accomplishments as county commissioner and state senator: the Cape Cod Commission, the Cape Cod Land Bank, the Community Preservation Act, ocean management legislation, and more.

O’Leary had a strong personal connection to Tsongas, the late congressman from Lowell who was O’Leary’s brother’s best friend growing up in that northeast Massachusetts industrial city. When Tsongas returned from the Peace Corps and said he wanted to run for city council, O’Leary’s brother told him, “You don’t have a future in politics.”

Sometimes, it seemed, Tsongas didn’t care whether he had a future in politics. O’Leary remembered driving to Cape Cod Community College with him during the height of the controversy over Tsongas’ call for a building moratorium on the peninsula, walking through an angry crowd of more than 100 protestors.

Tsongas and APCC were alike, O’Leary said, in “their willingness to step up” and provide leadership.

Editorial leadership was celebrated with the award to Walford, who cited Ambassador Jonathan Moore of Orleans as a wise counselor over the years on “the role of newspapers in a democracy” and “how to live an ethical life.” Recalling Tsongas’ book The Road From Here, she expressed sadness over “how little has been done to address the issues he laid out.”

Given APCC’s daunting road ahead, Walford said, “I wish you good luck – and good press.”

After salt marsh volunteer Carlson’s award was announced (he could not attend), attention turned to honoring Geist. APCC President Susan Shephard praised her “tenacity, diligence, and dedication” and said an endowed internship had been created in her name.

Geist said APCC’s genius is that its members “work regionally to protect our communities and in our communities to protect our region.” She spoke of the ongoing work of the organization: regional solutions to wastewater issues; “an overhaul of the state zoning act, one of the most outdated in the nation;” adoption of local zoning on the Cape to protect water and habitat; and coastal access and erosion.

Next week, Geist said, APCC will release results of a Capewide farm inventory that found 4,000 acres of farms and 300 farmers in the region. That effort was of a piece with her parting call to Cape Codders to experience this “land of sand and water” for themselves first-hand.