Aquinnah looks to create town village center 

Aquinnah is working with the Conway School to create a town village center with a playground, pavilion, and food forest. — Courtesy The Conway School

Aquinnah officials are working with the Conway School graduate program to plan for a town center behind the town hall.

The Conway School has been working with the town since 2017, and has since designed a landscape master plan for the Aquinnah Circle, which has been implemented.

The graduate program has also worked at the FARM Institute to create a comprehensive farm and educational campus layout

At Wednesday’s board of selectmen meeting, Noli Taylor presented to the town the design overview, which includes affordable housing, expanded parking, a playground, and a food forest. Public walking paths are slated to link the various elements of the town center together.

In the current plan, four residential units would be built into the east-facing slopes adjacent to the Totem Pole Inn, offering pleasant backyard views into the shady oak grove. In the future, the plan calls for additional units to spread northward along the slope. 

A private driveway down the access easement creates a separation between private homes and public spaces. 

Town administrator Jeff Madison said he reviewed the plan, and thinks the folks from Conway did a “wonderful job,” determining how the land can be joined and integrated into the existing town buildings and facilities. 

“I think these plans really take into account the contours of the property,” Madison said. 

Chairman of the board Jim Newman said he is also impressed with the plan, and asked Taylor to describe what a food forest is. 

Taylor said the food forest would be a perennial food-producing garden that will be connected to the walking paths next to the playscape and pavilion. 

Selectman Juli Vanderhoop said some of the next steps will be identifying areas of space that need to be cleared, and choosing which plants the town wants to keep around. She also said identifying some of the costs associated with this major project and beginning to hone fundraising initiatives early on would be beneficial. 

Vanderhoop said she wants to use Aquinnah as an example of what can be done by municipalities to best utilize their open spaces. 

“This is an educational tool. And we can start looking at grants for just what we are trying to do,” Vanderhoop said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”