by Catherine Macallister
On Sunday, September 1, island children (and their parents) discovered their new favorite place to play. Discovery Playground at Hinsdale Park is an accessible playground built on Land Bank land on Old South Road, across from the State Forest. The park is collaboration between The Land Bank and the Maria Mitchell Association as part of the Healthy Nantucket 2020 initiative that came about during the construction and opening of the new Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “The collaboration was a natural fit because both organizations have complementary, environmentally-focused missions. Maria Mitchell took the lead on the grant writing, community outreach, and development of the educational components. The Land Bank provided the land, significant financial support, and project construction oversight…it was a match made in heaven!” explained Jesse Bell, assistant director of the Nantucket Land Bank, in collaboration with Maria Mitchell’s Executive Director David Gagnon and Director of Natural Science and Engagement, Shelley Dresser.
The Land Bank Commission, Community Preservation Committee, and Healthy Nantucket 2020 funded the project, with additional support for the design and construction of the playground made possible through support from the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, and the Community Health Initiative, as well as an affirmative vote from Nantucket citizens at Annual Town Meeting on April 1, 2019.
This playground is the ideal place to spend a day with your kids: there is something for every age and ability, with one equipment section designed for adults, too. There are even checkerboard tables, for a quieter playground experience.
The ground of the Discovery Playground has been surfaced with “Pouredin- Place,” a soft rubber-top surface that makes it easy to bring wheelchairs or walkers right onto the playground. There are three zip lines, a global motion spinner, kaleidoscopes, slides, swings, climbing equipment, and sensory equipment. All pieces were selected by the Land Bank staff and Maria Mitchell staff in consultation with various experts on play equipment and accessibility. One of the zip lines is designed with a chair, an example of the group’s commitment to ensuring that kids of all abilities are able to enjoy as many components of the playground as possible.
There are also science components with associated interpretive signage. Kids trying out playground equipment like the global spinner will enjoy reading signs about what causes dizziness through the science facts located around the equipment. Next to one of the sensory exploration areas is information about frequencies that the children can test on the playground chimes. Additionally, there are “interesting panels kids can play with that will help develop fine motor skills and scientific thinking,” organizers explained.
The grounds have been “integrated within a woodland environment and has a meandering path that wraps around the entire premises,“ so parts of the playground are in full sun, parts in full shade, and sections have dappled light. Picnic tables and benches, a refillable water station and fountain, and an accessible port-a-potty make it a fun place to for children to meet their friends for lunch. The playground is a “pack-in, pack out facility,” meaning that everything you bring into the park must leave with you, so if you bring snacks, beverages, or lunch, make sure you do not leave any trash behind.
Executive Director of the Land Bank Eric Savetsky, said he hoped it would be “not just a good playground, but a GREAT one.” He also noted, “In addition to this wonderful playground, a wildlife corridor was built into the design to maintain the existing natural connection between the State Forest and the middle moors.”
“The playground is certainly the largest on Nantucket, and the design reflects a unique shape that you don’t typically see here,” says the group. It will serve the many children on-island who don’t have access to a centrally located park.
The Healthy Nantucket 2020 initiative was started to “address the most important health issues we face,” according to the Introductory Letter of the plan. After the need for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathmatics) accessible playground was identified, The Land Bank and Maria Mitchell sprang into action: “the timing was serendipitous: the Land Bank was looking for ideas of what it could do with this property and the playground idess surfaced.” Not only is the playground bettering the community in conjunction with the Healthy Nantucket 2020 initiative, it is also a testament to creating a playing and learning environment accessible to everyone on the island.
Community advisors who also weighed-in on this impressive project include Nantucket S.T.A.R, Nantucket Community School, the Town of Nantucket Planning Board, Small Friends on Nantucket, Town of Nantucket Parks and Recreation Committee, Nantucket Public Schools, and the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The brand new Discovery Playground at Hinsdale Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset. There is a small parking lot that includes handicap parking spaces as well as a bus parking spot. A bulletin board at the entrance of the playground will be updated regularly by the Nantucket Community School with information about health-related services and community resources.
Great care has been taken to provide a high-quality playground that is centrally accessible to kids on Nantucket, and community health outreach programs as well as the Nantucket Land Bank and Maria Mitchell Association have worked hard to see this all-abilities playground come to fruition. This collaboration speaks to the importance of our island community coming together to address the needs of all its members. Through the installation of The Discovery Playground at Hinsdale Park, children will now have the opportunity to explore, learn, and play as part of a commitment to making Nantucket healthier and more accessible to children and adults of all abilities.
The Maria Mitchell Association is a non-profit organization that is committed to preserving the legacy of Nantucket astronomer, librarian, naturalist and educator, Maria Mitchell. The MMA strives to provide the community with enriching educational and historical programs, available to kids and adults of all ages at their many institutes including: two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and a research center.
The Nantucket Land Bank is a governmental organization that began in 1983, with the hopes of preserving the island’s natural beauty. The Land Bank has worked to acquire, hold and manage key open spaces and provide access and protections to the lands of Nantucket and to create outdoor recreational opportunities for all.