Tisbury considers draft plan for harbor walk and park by bridge

The harbor and lagoon walkways are linked by Lagoon Pond Park on the left, adjacent to the drawbridge.

A harbor walk along both sides of Beach Road, linked to a public park adjacent to the Lagoon Pond drawbridge, is under consideration by Tisbury to enhance and better utilize the town’s waterfront.

Architect James Weisman of Terrain Associates Architects has created a visionary draft plan for the proposed project, sponsored by the Tisbury Community Preservation Committee (CPC). At the committee’s recommendation last spring, Tisbury voters approved the appropriation of $25,000 from the Community Preservation Reserve Fund for architectural and engineering review and plans for a new park at the foot of the drawbridge, to be called Lagoon Pond Park.

Mr. Weisman planned to discuss the details included in a brochure about his draft plan at a meeting last night with the Tisbury selectmen, planning board members, board of public works commissioners, and Harbor Management Committee.

The proposal is in the very preliminary stages, with many details to be worked out, such as funding and possible resources for grants, and whether to do the work in phases. The purpose of last night’s meeting was to discuss what the next step should be, Mr. Weisman told The Times in an interview at his office on Monday.

Of Tisbury’s approximately 8 miles of waterfront, most of it is private property and only about 940 to 1,000 feet is currently accessible to the public, he noted. “This project will greatly increase public access to the waterfront, and is inclusive of local people and also visitors,” Mr. Weisman said. “Here, there is no one we’re displacing or displeasing.”

The proposed site for the harbor walk encompasses 2,000 feet on both sides of Beach Road, along the causeway that runs between Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. Mr. Weisman’s draft plan includes a concrete walkway on the harbor side, outside of the sea wall, that would extend from the beach adjacent to the R.M. Packer Company’s commercial property to the bridge. On the lagoon side, a wooden walkway would start near the Wind’s Up property, and skirt the grasses and beaches just above the high tide mark to the bridge.

Distinctive design features mark the entries to both walkways at the Vineyard Haven end. The Compass Rose Plaza on the harbor side features a large mosaic compass rose, descriptive plaques about Holmes Hole and maritime history, and a dinghy dock. A crosswalk connects it to the beginning of the Lagoon Pond walkway on the other side, which includes a wooden covered bridge that serves as a shelter and stopping place for information about the town.

Among the harbor side walkway’s features are granite blocks and old timbers along the way that provide seating, swimming steps and ramps, and a fishing pier at the end by the drawbridge. The pathway would continue under the drawbridge to Lagoon Pond Park, which would replace the house that is presently there.

The new park would include a beach for kayak access and swimming, sitting areas shaded with trees, and a plaza facing the Lagoon entry, with bathrooms. To mask traffic noise, Mr. Weisman’s plan includes a feature where water will flow from a waterwheel, powered by the Lagoon’s tidal flow, down a series of channels and walls in the plaza to a formal pond at the center.

The Lagoon side walkway includes small areas that are wider for seating, occasional steps down to the adjacent beaches and shore, and a small amphitheater at one point. All of the harbor walk and park features would be handicapped accessible.

Mr. Weisman said he started thinking about harbor walkways in Tisbury when when he first moved to Martha’s Vineyard and started practicing as an architect in 1976. His involvement in the current project actually has roots in a study he subsequently did about 10 years ago for the Tisbury Department of Public Works (DPW), regarding potential walking paths in the town. Mr. Weisman said the concept of a harbor walk in the area now under consideration seemed so obvious to him, even then, and that it remained an idea he hoped to pursue.

Given Mr. Weisman’s previous work, the CPC’s sponsorship of the park proposal, and the town meeting vote, he said DPW director Fred LaPiana contacted him in June and asked him to revisit the idea of a harbor walk and also a park.

Mr. Weisman said he spent last summer on the draft plan, assisted by two interns, Luiza Aquino, a graduate architect and engineer from San Paulo, Brazil, and architect student Martin Boris from Cameroon, Africa. He points to other harbor walks and parks, such as those in Gloucester, Boston, and Mystic, Conn., as examples of similar projects that have been very successful in providing public access to beautiful waterfront areas.