Oak Bluffs Undergoes Facelift at Town Center; New Brick Sidewalks Set for Carousel Area

By CHRIS BURRELL

Bricklayers from Rehoboth and a highway crew from Oak Bluffs this week started rebuilding what could be one of the Island's most heavily trafficked sidewalks - the one surrounding the Flying Horses carousel smack in the center of Oak Bluffs.

But the project is more than just a collaboration of laborers. It's the result of a public-private partnership that means Oak Bluffs taxpayers will foot just half the bill for the brick sidewalks and granite curbs.

Picking up the other half of the $115,000 job are the Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust and the owners of a gift shop which flanks the Flying Horses.

"We heard the town was interested in doing brick sidewalks," bank president Richard Leonard said this week. "We asked if it was possible to do it down on our end of town."

The pooling of resources made it possible. The town will assume roughly half the cost, putting four highway workers on the job for two weeks.

For highway superintendent Richard Combra, Jr., brick is the ideal paving material. "It's going to be there long after we're gone," he said Wednesday as he oversaw day two of the project.

And then there's the 400 feet of granite curbing. Clearly, Mr. Combra likes the satisfaction of building something that will stand as a legacy. The old sidewalk had long ago outlived its usefulness.

"The existing sidewalk was very rough with many years of asphalt patches and pieces of concrete blocks showing through in areas," said Chris Scott, executive director of the preservation trust which owns and operates the carousel.

The bank spent much of the last year constructing its new branch at the front end of the Flying Horses and so the brick sidewalk is really just the icing on the cake. Tisbury architect Mark Hutker helped out with the sidewalk plans, but he's also the one responsible for designing a building that reflected the Victorian-era architecture of the Oak Bluffs center.

But the town and the three businesses didn't stop at the sidewalk. The project will also lay another couple pallets of brick over Farland Square, the little island that houses the information booth.

Crews will also widen out the roadway by the square, making it easier for cars to navigate the left turn off New York avenue, one of the busiest intersections in town.

And Tuesday night, Mr. Combra told selectmen he would need to remove two ornamental pear trees from the square and bring in two newer trees that will be planted on either side of the booth.

The sidewalk project should be finished in two weeks. Meanwhile, don't mind the workers or the construction scene if you're eager to experience a Vineyard rite of spring: The Flying Horses will open tomorrow and stay open Easter Sunday and through the school holiday week, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.