Designation Date: 12/15/78
Total approximate acreage: 9,125 acres
Watershed/subwatershed: Cape Cod/Barnstable Harbor
Municipalities (% of ACEC): Barnstable (90%) and Sandwich (10%)

Designation Overview

The Sandy Neck Barrier Beach System ACEC was nominated by the Selectmen from the Towns of Barnstable and Sandwich, and was designated as an ACEC in 1978 because of the area’s extraordinary natural resources. The ACEC boundary generally follows the 100-year floodplain elevation on the landward side and mean low water on the seaward side of the Harbor. Included in the ACEC is one of the largest barrier beach systems in New England. Sandy Neck extends eastward approximately seven miles and shelters Barnstable Harbor and the extensive saltmarsh habitat. This barrier beach is considered relatively stable, helping to establish a variety of natural communities including migrating sand dunes, fresh and saltwater marshes and ponds, wooded swamps, tidal flats, streams, and deciduous and coniferous forests. These areas provide flood control, storm damage prevention, improved water quality, wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities to surrounding communities.

View full Resource Summary

What coastal resources are included (partially or entirely) in the ACEC?

  • Harbors, Sounds, Bays: Barnstable Harbor, Broad Sound (Barnstable); Scorton Harbor (Sandwich)
  • Rivers: none
  • Lakes, Ponds: none
  • Brooks, Creeks: Bass, Boat Cove, Brickyard, Bridge, Eel, Great Island, Mill, Scorton, Smith, and Wells Creeks (Barnstable); Scorton Creek (Sandwich)

Barrier Beaches included in ACEC (Massachusetts Barrier Beach Inventory, CZM, 1982): Sandy Neck (Ba-29, Sd-1), beach on east side of Scorton Harbor running to Scorton Shores (Sd-2), several areas along southern side of Barnstable Harbor (Ba-25,26,27,28)

Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs): Barnstable Harbor. (ORWs are waters, such as public water supplies and vernal pools that are protected by the most stringent standards because they constitute an outstanding resource as determined by their socio-economic, recreational, ecological, and/or aesthetic values).