PROVINCETOWN — The new bathhouse at Herring Cove Beach will open Saturday as summer crowds really start to arrive at the Cape Cod National Seashore’s most popular swimming beach.
The $5 million facility is a marked departure from the beige and dank 1950s-era bathhouse demolished last fall. In its place are four shingled cottages, about 400 to 600 square feet each, sitting on pilings and connected with wide decks. Each building takes care of the small things to make for a good time at the beach: changing into swimsuits, taking a quick bathroom break and downing cold drinks and food. The outdoor areas seem open and inviting enough, with broad views of the sea, that they might be a place people could gather in the evening.
“We talked about it being a destination,” Seashore Deputy Superintendent Kathy Tevyaw said as she stood Tuesday with her back to the sea, facing the new buildings, in near 80-degree heat. Workers were scrambling to complete a cedar-framed trellis that will provide shade on the decks. Benches still needed to be installed and signs hung. Shingles on two buildings are arranged to resemble a whale and a sea turtle to reflect the animal life nearby.
The upgrades are both fun and serious, according to National Park Service project manager and architect Amy Sebring.
The bathhouse — like plans for the beach’s northern parking — has been designed to withstand the effects of climate change, such as rising seas and fierce winter winds, and to allow dunes to migrate naturally. The buildings and decks have been pulled back at least 100 feet from the edge of the coast and raised about 4 feet. The modular design could make it possible to move the buildings even farther back. The posts for the trellis can withstand 150 mph winds, Sebring said.
“This will still be standing,” Sebring said with her hand on a post, somewhat jokingly, when other structures in town have been flattened.
“Structural integrity is a big agenda for the National Park Service as a whole,” she said.
The beach had 876,000 visitors in 2012, according to the National Park Service.
The Seashore received money to rebuild the bathhouse two years earlier than expected, in part because of the previous building’s poor condition, its vulnerability to heavy surf and erosion, and the need to use money that was at risk of not being available later, Sebring and Tevyaw said last fall. A plan to move the 208-spot northern parking lot back about 125 fee back and 15 feet higher will, according to Seashore officials, help protect it from storm erosion and maintain a favorite drive-up spot for the beach.
Even the food served at the new bathhouse’s snack bar has a forward-thinking vibe, with the recent launch within the National Park Service of a move toward more healthful and sustainable food. A Provincetown business, Far Land Provisions, has won a three-year contract to run the snack bar, Seashore Superintendent George Price announced Thursday in a written release. Far Land Provisions is a food store, deli, bakery and catering company on Bradford Street. The snack bar will open next week, with hours probably from just before lunch to sunset, co-owner Tom Boland said Tuesday.
“We’re very excited,” Boland said. “It’s a beautiful facility. They have done such an amazing job.” Rest assured, Boland said, the snack bar will definitely be serving hot dogs.