Beaches, Marshes and Estuaries

The Town of Barnstable has over 100 miles of splendid beaches, including Craigville Beach, the largest in the mid-Cape area, and Sandy Neck Beach with its nationally renowned hiking trails.  



How does wastewater impact our coastal waters?

Organic materials are found everywhere in the environment. They are composed of the carbon-based chemicals that are the building blocks of most living things. Organic materials in wastewater originate from plants, animals, or synthetic organic compounds, and enter wastewater in human wastes, paper products, detergents, cosmetics, foods, and from agricultural, commercial, and industrial sources.

Organic compounds normally are some combination of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements. Many organics are proteins, carbohydrates, or fats and are biodegradable, which means they can be consumed and broken down by organisms. However, even biodegradable materials can cause pollution. In fact, too much organic matter in wastewater can be devastating to receiving waters.

Large amounts of biodegradable materials are dangerous to lakes, streams, and oceans, because organisms use dissolved oxygen in the water to break down the wastes. This can reduce or deplete the supply of oxygen in the water needed by aquatic life, resulting in fish kills, odors, and overall degradation of water quality. 

How can I help protect our saltwater environments?

What You Can Do to Help Protect our Coastal Watersheds and Estuaries

Here’s what you can do to protect our coastal watersheds and estuaries, our priceless resources:

  • Conserve water in your daily life.
    • Install water-saving toilets and showerheads.
    • Replace dripping faucets and leaky pipes.
  • Dispose of household and yard chemicals properly; follow disposal directions on their labels.
  • Don’t be wasteful: reduce, re-use and recycle every day.
  • Pick up trash; participate in trash clean-up days.
  • Cut up the rings of plastic six-pack holders so that aquatic life and birds cannot become entangled in them.
  • Respect your sewer system: don’t pour toxic wastes, chemicals or any medications down the toilet.

In Your Garage and Yard:

  • Maintain your cars and other heavy equipment to reduce oil leaks.
  • Minimize use of fertilizers and pesticides on your yard.
  • Water your lawn conservatively and keep grass clippings out of street gutters.
  • Have your septic system inspected to make sure it is operating properly.
  • Avoid pouring fats, grease or solids down the drain.
  • Build a rain garden in your yard or install rain barrels.

On the Water:

Building Artificial Reef Balls
Photo Credit: Nancy Laurson
  • Don’t dump your trash overboard; dispose of properly and recycle.
  • Maintain your boats to reduce oil leaks.
  • Keep your boat or motorized watercraft out of sensitive areas like seagrass beds.
  • Install and maintain marine sanitation devices on your boat.
  • Use designated pumpout stations.
  • When visiting coral reefs, do not touch living coral.

In Your Community:

  • Volunteer with your local environmental organizations.
  • Pick up trash; participate in trash clean-up days.
  • Help plant trees or seagrass, or remove invasive vegetation.
  • Don’t litter: streets and storm drains empty into rivers and streams that drain into our estuaries.
  • Pick up your pet’s waste.
  • Do not dump petroleum products, including oil, down storm drains; recycle used motor oil.
  • Remember gutters and storm drains deliver water and contaminants to streams, rivers and eventually the ocean.

When Shopping:

  • Use reusable bags rather than paper or plastic ones.
  • Choose non-toxic products for household use.
  • Choose products carefully: avoid excess packaging.

Saltwater Beaches

Covell’s Beach
Craigville Beach
Loop Beach
Dowses Beach 
Millway Beach
Sandy Neck Beach
Kalmus Beach
Ropes Beach
Keyes Beach (Sea Street)

Veteran’s Park Beach