Aquinnah playground expansion coming together

The first phase of the project, completed in November, has been open.


After phase one of construction on the Aquinnah playground completed in November, the town is considering a cost of $250,000 for a second building phase. 

This next phase is planned to include submarine and pirate ship structures, a toddler swing set, xylophones, and more.

The playground is part of the ongoing Aquinnah Town Center project, which is planned to also include the Carl Widdis Way Apartments affordable housing project, an area for public foraging, and an updated basketball court.

Aquinnah’s playground is being built by Leathers and Associates, a company based in Ithaca, N.Y., that is also behind the construction of Niantic Park in Oak Bluffs.

Currently, Aquinnah’s playground includes a large, fort-like structure with a railed entryway, slides, rock wall, rope bridge, and other elements. A swing set in the far corner of the lot is partially completed. 

The other installations to come, which are nautically themed, are visible in a draft design from Leathers on the town’s Parks & Recreation Committee page.

Many parts of the playground plan come right from the imaginations of children who will be playing there. In 2021, Leathers held a Zoom session with Aqunnah children to understand their hopes for the area, and solicited design sketches from those children.

As was done for phase one, phase two will rely upon an ongoing fundraising effort, which will also inform timelines for the project. “We are still in the beginning phases of fundraising,” says town parks and recreation committee member Jamie Vanderhoop. “We don’t have a date locked in.”

Vanderhoop says that phase two will require approximately $250,000 in funding, a similar amount to the $264,000 goal required for phase one. Vanderhoop says that phase two funding will come from public donations, as with phase one. Vanderhoop additionally is interested in funding through the Community Preservation Act.

The Aquinnah committee member says that this upcoming phase will also “absolutely” involve opportunities for residents to help out. In October and November, Aquinnah invited volunteers ages 10 and above to contribute to the playground’s construction.

Thus far, Vanderhoop is happy with the playground’s progress. “Everything went so well, and as planned. We had a really great outpouring of donations and equipment … It took a big community effort. I think everyone will just be excited to see the space.”

Updates are also planned for the basketball court behind Aquinnah’s fire station, and Vanderhoop plans to ask the Community Preservation committee for funding. Vanderhoop says that the precise amount of funding needed is not yet known.

She says that the court needs repaving after significant damage from tree roots, and also would like to see repairs to the old fence surrounding the court. “We really want to make the basketball court more handicap-accessible, and accessible for all abilities. And also it’s a very old court, that just needs a little bit of attention,” Vanderhoop says.