Updated June 29
On Saturday, June 23, members of the newly founded Drawbridge Park Committee unveiled a new gem to the public.
Drawbridge Park, located on the Tisbury side of the drawbridge, was built to use the extra space made available by the deconstruction of the old temporary bridge, which was used for seven years.
Melinda Loberg, Tisbury selectman and head of the newly named Drawbridge Park Committee (previously the Lagoon Pond Bridge committee), said she hopes the park will bring with it a sense of community and enjoyment.
Loberg credited the creation of the park to Mark London, former executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, saying it was his idea to use the area for more than just transportation.
“Mark had this great vision of making sure that the public could use this space so that it isn’t just for the transportation of cars over and boats under,” said Loberg. “So it became more about the question, ‘What can we do for the Vineyard people?’”
Steve Zablotny, owner of graphic design business Z Studio, said he thinks it’s important for people to learn about the history of the lagoon, as well as the bridge and how it came to be. He designed a number of signs with informational map graphics and brief overviews of significant events in the area’s history. “We really treated the lagoon as one giant artifact,” said Zablotny.
“When you are doing interpretive panels, that’s part of the task. It’s not just pretty pictures; there is an important story that needs to be told.”
The panels used information from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and newspaper archives.
According to Zablotny, many Island entities wanted to help the committee draw the curtains on the park project. “Everyone really wanted to be part of it,” he said. “It was a real collaborative local effort.”
David Grunden, Oak Bluffs shellfish constable and member of the Drawbridge Park Committee, highlighted the importance of protecting the marshlands that abut the bridge, as well as the variety of marine plants and animals that are indigenous to the area.
“We tried to address any environmental issues that we encountered, including removing the shellfish stock before building the cofferdam for the bridge, and transplanting eelgrass on the Oak Bluffs side,” said Grunden.
Grunden also explained that because species like the winter flounder and American eel were migrating into the pond, in-water work had to be timed just right.
Henry Stephenson, a member of the park committee, said the park will improve foot circulation around the bridge area, considering there is only one crosswalk going over it.
He also spoke about the park’s prospective improvements, citing a possible kayak landing and fishing area. “All together, we want to have a park that is accessible by foot, by bike, and by water,” said Stephenson.
When asked if there was a time frame for the creation of the kayak landing and increased access, Stephenson said, “it’s more about money and permissions than time.”
“We’re not going out into the water with docks and decks, so hopefully the landing won’t require much permitting,” Stephenson said.
The biggest question for the future of the park, according to Loberg, is whether the state will provide the necessary permitting and regulatory permissions to improve the park. “Will the state let us do what we need?” said Loberg.
Bill Veno of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission said people shouldn’t think of this as just a bridge project. “We’ve been wanting to have a bike path connecting the two port towns for decades,” said Veno. “We are trying to incorporate all these pieces, including the overall health of the channel and the pond, into the process.”
Veno also gave credit to the number of local elements that played huge roles in the construction of the park and the improvement of the bridge. “This could have been just flat concrete,” he said as he patted the concrete wall that had been meticulously formed and painted to look like actual stones. “These little details are what really came together to make this a really great project,” said Veno.
Updated to correct attribution of several quotes and to correct the spelling of Zablotny. – Ed.