CHARLESTOWN — The new Gaga pit at Ninigret Park opened in May and with summer camp now in full swing, it’s busy all day.
A different take on dodgeball, Gaga, named for "ga," the Hebrew word for touch, is played with a medium-sized rubber ball. Players try to tag each other below the knee with the ball and the last person untagged wins the game. There’s a lot of running and jumping involved, but no kicking. Gaga is a hands-only game.
The new facility, a 22-foot octagon surrounded by wooden walls, was built as an Eagle Scout project by Christopher Bell of Troop 15 in Charlestown.
On Wednesday afternoon, Charlestown Parks and Recreation Director Vicky Hilton invited Bell’s parents, Town Council President Virginia Lee, and council member Bonnie Van Slyke to watch as Bell installed a plaque on the gate of the pit. Also present were Scouts Robert and William Lovewell, who helped build the pit.
Bell said there were several challenges, including coming up with $1,000 for the lumber.
“There was a lot of fundraising in doing this because we had to buy all the wood,” he said. “That was an obstacle, and then, just trying to find time to get a group of people here to set it up. We did it in two days. The first day, we had five to six people at our house and we had to cut the wood and start building the walls. Then we had another day here, where we assembled all the walls, in the rain. We had 12 to 15 Scouts and adults.”
Charlie Bell said his son had been searching for an Eagle Scout project when Hilton told him that Charlestown would welcome a Gaga pit at Ninigret Park. “The Boy Scout camp in Rockville, Yawgoog, has three of them and they are wildly popular, and Vicky had been hearing from some of the other local towns, Hopkinton and Richmond, that they were putting them in and she thought that would be good. As soon as she mentioned it to Christopher, he was like, ‘Yeah, it would be very popular in this park as well.’”
Christopher’s mother, Kris, said the main criterion for the project was that it benefit the community.
“To benefit the community and be an asset to the community, so, an asset to this playground program that Charlestown Parks and Recreation runs every year. That’s the key piece to me, that it’s serving a need,” she said.
Hilton said the Gaga pit was popular with both young and older children.
“The good thing is, all ages can play in it and it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s a little safer than dodgeball because the kids don’t hit each other in the head with the ball.”
Lee pointed out that the new pit is also wheelchair accessible.
“It’s wonderful that it can be used by small children, all ages, up to adults. It’s handicapped accessible, very unusual for a Gaga pit, which means anyone can roll in and use it,” she said. “The game’s played with your hands. It’s not a kickball, and in a wheelchair, you could play.”
Van Slyke said the pit was a welcome addition to the park.
“From the moment Chris suggested it, everyone has been so excited,” she said. “They've seen these things in other places and you can see how popular it is.”
The pit was in constant use, even as Bell attached his plaque to the wooden gate. The town will install a second sign explaining the rules of the game. Bell said he was pleased to see how popular the Gaga pit was.
“Inside, I feel really happy that my project’s being used and it’s good for the community,” he said.