It’s still possible for two people to stay in Provincetown for less than $50 a night — thanks to Robert Collinson (1920-1978), who founded the Dunes’ Edge tent site in 1960; his widow, Miriam M. Collinson (b 1942), who kept it going long after his death; the Town of Provincetown; and the Trustees of Reservations, a statewide trust founded in 1891 that is chartered to hold land tax free for the benefit of the public. The Trustees acquired this 17-acre property on the edge of the Cape Cod National Seashore in 2013 after four years of negotiation. They continue to run it as a seasonal campground for 85 standard tents, pop-up tents and vans, as well as 15 motor homes or travel trailers. Besides affordable accommodations, the Dunes’ Edge deal also preserves a priceless relic of woodland living, 1960s style.
In 2005, the arc of the story didn’t seem to be headed this way at all. At that time, Mrs. Collinson, who grew up at 23 Conant Street and lived on this property in a large A-frame house, proposed creating a 29-lot residential subdivision entered from Nelson Avenue, with two lots set aside for affordable housing and the rest as single-family homes. One realtor estimated that the lots might sell for $350,000 to $400,000 each. (Mary Ann Bragg, “Dune’s Edge Subdivision Plan Could Fetch Up to $400K a Lot,” The Provincetown Banner, 24 March 2005.)
Four years and no subdivision later, Mrs. Collinson approached the trust. “She wanted to somehow protect the property and not see it developed,” Jennifer Dubois, of the Trustees of Reservations, was quoted as saying. “She and her family have owned and managed the campground for over 50 years. They created a tremendous legacy.” (Kaimi Rose Lum, “Deal at Dunes’ Edge Ensures Future of Provincetown Campground,” The Provincetown Banner/Wicked Local, 23 March 2013.) In 2013, the trustees appointed David Finch, who had been working most recently at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, as the new superintendent of the Dune’s Edge site. Also in 2013, in partnership with the Provincetown Conservation Trust, the campground became a season-long art installation under the program known as Appearances. Two of the works pictured below are by Remmi Franklin (mosaic aerial map of Cape Cod) and Paul Oberst (sculpture suspended in tree branches). “Wandering through the campground currently is like an artistic Easter egg hunt,” Steve Desroches wrote. (“The Art of Nature/The Nature of Art,” Provincetown Magazine, 24 April 2013.)