Vineyard Haven residents are banding together to revitalize Owen Park, a treasured, historic park in the heart of the highly developed town.

During Vision Council meetings last year that focused on town improvements, Owen Park emerged as a clear priority. The long, narrow lot with a sloping grass hill down to a strip of beach features a bandstand and a pier jutting out into Vineyard Haven Harbor. Points of concern for community members include parking, the fate of the bandstand, pedestrian and parking access, and how to handle the park's many uses.

Around thirty community members gathered Thursday night to talk about the a master plan for the park, which was named after William Barry (W.B.) Owen in 1921.

Concern for the state of the park goes back to the 1980s, when Tisbury Parks and Recreation chairman Lee Smith noted the peeling of the flagpole and the degradation of the swimming area. In 2014, Paul Doherty sent a letter to the Gazette noting the park’s degraded state, spearheading a concerted effort to shine it up.

On Thursday attendees broke into four small groups to talk about Owen Park’s entrance and accessibility, history, waterfront use, and general improvements.

Mr. Doherty, who attended the meeting, said he thought the entrance would be the easiest fix, suggesting trimming the hedge that blocks the view from Main street and adding solar panels to light the flag at all times. He also suggested a buy-a-brick campaign around the flagpole to fund refurbishing and connect people to the park.

“I’ve been saying it for two years, if you clean up a park, people will treat it differently,” Mr. Doherty said, pointing to Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs as an example.

The deteriorating bandstand was also hot topic, with community members agreeing it was tied to history of the park. The original bandstand was built by volunteers in 1921 and replaced in 1961. It would cost an estimated $60,000 to $80,000 to rebuild.

Some community members were in favor of restoring the bandstand to its former glory, while others thought the design need not stay true to the original.

“I’m not wedded to a particular style of bandstand as long as there is a bandstand” said selectman Melinda Loberg in her group’s discussion.

A relative of W.B. Owen, Israel Ziegenhorn, identified the bandstand as a unifying piece of the park, and a focal point of activities, concerts and shows.

Others talked about the many varied uses of the park, located on a busy harbor but also one of the most accessible town beaches for children. Boating and swimming are not the best mix, but “we have so few public beaches in town,” said Judy Miller.

Some expressed concern about dirty water, but the beach has a long history as a swimming spot — in the early 1990s Red Cross certified swimming lessons were offered there. Some suggested a sign that delineates what activities the park supports.

The attendees agreed the park needs more attention and that volunteer work alone is not sustainable.

As the meeting concluded, planning board member Cheryl Doble thanked the attendees for their thoughts.

“I heard some really small ideas that are brilliant — brilliant and nobody has brought them up before,” she said.

The town is in the process of hiring a designer to work on a master plan and offer design options. Improvements to the park could begin in spring, with some in place by Memorial Day. Volunteers are needed, Ms. Doble said, directing those interested to the Vision Council’s new website,

Mr. Doherty said though things are still in the talking stage, positive steps have been taken.

“If nothing else, there are eyes on the park now,” said Mr. Doherty.

e in place by Memorial day and are looking for volunteers she said, directing people to the Vision councils new website.

Mr. Doherty said though it was still the talking stage, there have been some positive steps made.

“If nothing else, there’s eyes on the park now,” said Mr. Doherty.