Chelsea Earnest Memorial Playground, originally West End Playground
1 Bradford Street. [2011, Dunlap]
Pickleball players. [2022, Dunlap]
Pickleball rules. [2022, Dunlap]
The Nautilus Club, an influential women’s civic group, was deeply involved in efforts at the mid-20th century to establish proper playgrounds for children, who were otherwise left to play in the streets or on beaches that were much less tidy than they are today. The Nickerson Street Playground or West End Playground, as this was originally called, came about in 1949 when the owner of an idle property at 1 Bradford Street agreed to sell it for that purpose. The Nautilus Club put up the down payment and also sponsored events, like dessert whist-bridge parties, to raise money to equip the play area.
This being Provincetown, even a mom-and-apple-pie issue like a new playground was at least briefly embroiled in controversy. Soon after it opened, there were complaints about the macadam surface; one, because it could result in painful injuries to anyone who fell there and two, because it drew basketball players, who would push aside the youngsters for whom the grounds were intended.
In 1981, Avis Johnson moved into the home of her great-grandmother, Sadie Patrick, at 8 Mechanic Street, two blocks away from the West End Playground, in which Johnson had played as a girl. She now had a 1-year-old daughter of her own, Chelsea Earnest. “The playground served her well during the remaining 12 years of her life,” Johnson recalled, in a comment posted below.
“A short time after Chelsea’s tragic death in the summer of ’93, Florence Bent, a beloved kindergarten teacher and friend, petitioned the town to rename the playground in memory of Chelsea. No one in town opposed the idea. “And so, to me, it will forever be ‘Chelsea’s Playground.’” And so, as you can see by the sign, will it be for everyone who passes by or stops to play.
The Town Recreation Commission opened two pickleball courts in the summer of 2021 in an outdoor basketball court along Nickerson Street. They were tremendously popular among the growing cohort of pickleball players; much less so among neighbors dealing with the sharp noise of the game, and basketball players, who felt pushed out of the court. “How heated is the debate about the West End pickleball courts?” K. C. Myers asked at the beginning of a story in The Provincetown Independent on 27 October 2021. “If the swear words were left in everyone’s statements, this article would be two inches longer.”1
Avis Johnson wrote on 4 January 2012: This playground (which we always called the West End Playground) was the playground of my youth.
My great grandmother, Sadie Patrick, lived around the corner on Mechanic Street. Sometime after her death, I moved my family into her house. Chelsea, my daughter, was a year old then (1981) and the playground served her well during the remaining 12 years of her life.
A short time after Chelsea’s tragic death in the summer of ’93, Florence Bent, a beloved kindergarten teacher and friend, petitioned the town to rename the playground in memory of Chelsea. No one in town opposed the idea. And so, to me, it will forever be “Chelsea’s Playground.”
Judy Fields wrote on 4 January 2012: That is so very nice to commemorate my niece in this fashion. Makes me feel proud for this community to remember this child.
Susan Goldberg wrote on 5 January 2012: That is beautiful.
¶ Last updated on 11 November 2022.
1 “West End in a Pickle Over Popular Sport; Town Reduces Hours at the Pickleball Court After Volley of Complaints,” by K. C. Myers, The Provincetown Independent, 27 October 2021.
1 Bradford Street on the Town Map, showing property lines.