Construction and landscaping crews are finishing work on Niantic Park, closed this past summer to complete an $819,000 overhaul project funded by Community Preservation Act funds and approved by town meeting voters. The Oak Bluffs Parks Commission, which oversees the project, has raised more than $21,000 in private donations to restore elements of the project that were dropped because the town did not have enough money to fund the project as first envisioned. Voters will be asked to allocate another $150,000 at a Nov. 17 special town meeting to finish the job.

Rendering of proposed children's playground.

Building is also underway for a separate, privately-funded project to create a distinctive children’s playground with an Island theme. Beginning on Wednesday hundreds of volunteers will take part in an intensive five-day build to complete the playground. More volunteers are needed.

Overall, the new park design will focus more on basketball than tennis. The four tennis courts will be reduced to two completely rebuilt courts. A new multi-use court and a practice basketball court will replace the other two tennis courts, to compliment a larger main basketball court. The design added a water fountain and public bathrooms too.

“Right now they’re finishing up the fences, the sidewalk stuff,” said Richard Combra Jr., the town’s highway superintendent, and a member of the parks commission. “They’re loaming and seeding, probably about a month or so from completing it.”

Funding for the project has been a challenge. An initial attempt to refurbish part of the park to improve drainage began in 2009. It was cancelled in 2011. The $160,000 in CPA funds approved by voters was returned to the Community Preservation Committee accounts.

Additional basketball facilities will replace two of the old tennis courts. — Mark Lovewell

In 2010, the historic picnic pavilion in the park was refurbished, using $44,000 in CPA funds.

In 2012 voters authorized $25,000 for an engineering study to design a complete restoration of the popular town facility. The following year, they authorized $750,000 for the project. Of that amount, $350,000 came in the form of a bond issued by the town. The Community Preservation Committee agreed to reimburse the town for the 10-year bond.

After issuing a request for proposal (RFP) all bids were considerably higher than expected. The parks commission rejected all bids, and issued another RFP. Again, all bids were higher than expected. The lowest bid exceeded the available funds by approximately $110,000, according to Mr. Combra. In order to move the project forward, the parks commission reduced the scope of the work by eliminating some elements of the project.

Loaming and seeding of the area has begun. — Mark Lovewell

“We’ve pulled items out of the scope of work to get the price down,” the commission said in a statement at the time. “The items were the following: six hoops, scoreboard, bleachers, basketballs, basketball racks, player benches, time clock, and scorer’s table. We also pulled most of the landscaping throughout the park.”

Also left unfunded were signs, a flagpole, picnic tables, and park benches.

The parks commission reasoned that those items could be privately funded, with the help of the Friends of Oak Bluffs and other private organizations.

Playground will include side-wheel steam ferry with a sandbox and Victorian cottage with monkey bars. — Mark Lovewell

A separate private fundraising campaign was launched last year to complete the children’s playground. The campaign drew $75,600 in pledges and building supplies. Organizers say they need about $5,000 more to fund the project. The private funds will supplement $46,000 set aside by the town as part of the restoration project.

The project is the idea of parents who live near the park.

“The outpouring of support and generosity from Island residents has been completely overwhelming,” said Guinevere Cramer, one of the playground project organizers. “To think that a year ago, 12 parents got together to see if creating a unique custom playground for the town was even possible. A year later, it’s going to be a reality. On this Island, you can do things like that, if something is important to you.”

Designed by Leathers & Associates, a firm that has built more than 3,000 community playgrounds, the playground will include a wooden representation of a side-wheel steam ferry, complete with a sandbox in the bow and a slide off the stern. The design also includes a lighthouse, and a Victorian cottage equipped with curvy monkey bars, a rope ladder, and a slide off the back porch.

Project organizers plan to build the playground in five days next week, with the help of volunteers including several local construction firms. The project begins on Wednesday and continues daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, Oct. 18.

To sign up for shifts, visit signupgenius.com/go/20f054badae2aa0fc1-community.

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