Editorial: In Barrington, playing is second fiddle

Posted 11/25/23

For a community of its size, means and resources, Barrington has the most underwhelming array of recreational facilities in Rhode Island.

Through many budgets and many changes in government, …

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Editorial: In Barrington, playing is second fiddle


For a community of its size, means and resources, Barrington has the most underwhelming array of recreational facilities in Rhode Island.

Through many budgets and many changes in government, recreation has never been a top priority for this community. Schools and public safety have been clear priorities. Recreation has not. It’s puzzling.

One would presume that a community investing heavily in public education, along with safe streets and homes, would develop a wide array of complementary recreational facilities. In many other places with a stronger sense of identity, those priorities go hand in hand — great schools are accompanied by great sports fields, recreation centers and community centers.

That is not the case here in Barrington. As has been documented by many sources, including a town poll within the past year, the ball fields range from mediocre to embarrassing. There are no recreation centers of any kind open to the public. There is not a single public facility for indoor basketball, swimming or skating.

Most Rhode Island communities employ a full-time recreation director, backed by a supporting staff. Barrington has a part-time director, who splits her time overseeing the town’s senior services.

The one area where Barrington excels is in passive recreation. This community is home to spectacular open spaces, waterfront access points, walking trails, fishing spots and boat launching facilities. However, these facilities, once created, are relatively easy to protect and maintain.

Active recreational facilities require a lot more planning and management, but they also serve the largest populations. More residents living in this community, most of whom are also heavily invested taxpayers, are likely to utilize a sports field or a recreation center than a walking trail during their years living in Barrington. Yet the town’s priorities and actions are rarely aligned with this majority’s most likely activities.

New hope arrived last year, when Barrington Town Council Rob Humm made public recreational facilities one of his highest priorities for the local government. He is pushing the town find a path toward better sports fields and indoor recreational spaces, and he helped set numerous initiatives in motion. Of course, the process is painfully slow, and what might take months instead takes years. A consultant’s report will hopefully jumpstart the process soon.

In the meantime, it is disappointing to see the town pouring recreational energy into fringe projects. A public skatepark could be a nice addition to the community (though serving a relatively small population). But expansion of the public splash pad? Who in Barrington is demanding more space and more investments in the splash pad?

If Barrington had a robust array of recreational facilities serving its largest and most invested community, then these would be wonderful additions to the town’s infrastructure. But without that, it feels like the town’s priorities are askew — as they have been for too many years.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.