New Outdoor Rec Spaces Nearing Completion

by Alan Pollock

CHATHAM – There’s a new place for kids to play outdoors in town, and soon, there will be a new place for adults, too.

A new playground at Volunteer Park in West Chatham is now complete, and the finishing touches are being applied to a new pickleball court off Stepping Stones Road.

“We’re excited to be coming to the end of these two projects,” said Aimee Howell, deputy director of recreation and beaches.

Construction on the playground was finished last week and it’s ready for youngsters to enjoy, she said. There are lots of fun play structures, including traditional swings and slides, but the key feature is the play surface, which is made of rubber poured in place. It not only provides a spongy, kid-safe surface to reduce the risk of injuries from falls, but it also allows access for kids with mobility challenges.

“It’s such an asset, just because it’s safer for the kids, and it’s obviously more inclusive, which is really what we were going for,” Howell said. “It allows the whole community to access the playground.”

Because it was built on the edge of the softball fields off Sam Ryder Road, about 200 feet from the parking area, the new playground required a paved pathway for accessibility. While voters approved funds for the playground itself last year, town officials determined that the playground would be inaccessible — and likely out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act — without paved access. The walkway was installed using funds left over from another capital project, Howell said.

Installation of the playground was fairly straightforward, but the poured rubber surface had to be left undisturbed for 72 hours to cure. Had someone stepped on the material during that time period, “it would have destroyed it and we would have to fix it at our cost,” she said. Happily, people heeded the signs and warning tape put up by the DPW, she said.

Across town off Stepping Stones Road, adjacent to Monomoy Middle School, six new pickleball courts are nearing completion. Formerly outdoor basketball courts, the space is enclosed by a new fence with a new surface striped for pickleball.

“We think it’s going to be great for the community,” Howell said. Currently, legions of pickleball fans either play inside the community center or at the reconfigured tennis courts on Depot Road. Will the six new courts meet the high demand for playing space?

“I don’t think anyone can ever meet the demand for pickleball,” Howell quipped. “It’s a place where the community comes together to play and socialize.”

While a reservation system and fees are still being finalized, the new courts will likely be open for play during certain time slots for those who pay a membership fee on the recreation division’s website. The new sign-up system could be in place as early as this week, Howell said.

As of Tuesday, the installation of nets and poles had yet to be completed, and on Monday, crews were installing a special acoustic fencing barrier on the east side of the courts closest to Great Hill Road.

“The plan was to put that up to mitigate any type of sound heading their way,” Howell said.

Benches and bleachers will also be installed, and the courts should be ready for play within two weeks, she said.