Cars permanently barred from South Lake Drive

Council closes one-way road to vehicle traffic

By Josh Bickford
Posted 6/11/21

The days of driving your car down South Lake Drive are gone forever.

At their meeting on June 7, members of the Barrington Town Council voted to close the road to vehicle traffic …

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Cars permanently barred from South Lake Drive

Council closes one-way road to vehicle traffic

Posted

The days of driving your car down South Lake Drive are gone forever.

At their meeting on June 7, members of the Barrington Town Council voted to close the road to vehicle traffic permanently. 

The one-way road which circles the eastern shoreline of Echo Lake had been closed for the last few months on a temporary basis as town officials mulled over the future of the roadway.

Some in town, including members of the Barrington Conservation Commission, had called for the road to remain open to vehicle traffic, while Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha and others called for the road to be permanently closed to cars and trucks. 

During the June 7 meeting, Mr. Cunha said the road had not been maintained for many years and it would likely cost the town more than $200,000 to properly renovate it, referencing new lighting and guardrails as part of the work. (Later in the same meeting, the  town council approved the expenditure of $250,000 to repave a portion of the Hampden Meadows School parking lot.)

Mr. Cunha said the road does not serve as an important connector for vehicle traffic. 

Before members of the council began discussing whether the road would remain open to vehicles, the topic shifted, as people began talking about how to best repair the pothole-riddled road surface.

Barrington resident Thomas Rimoshytus said the town ought to consider having the asphalt company currently contracted to repave some roads in town stop by South Lake Drive and grind up the old surface. He said there was a machine that could dig up the asphalt and grind it up. Mr. Rimoshytus said the resulting pulverized asphalt and dirt could then be placed down on the same stretch and rolled flat.

“Leave it as a hard-packed trail,” Mr. Rimoshytus said. 

Mr. Cunha said that would not be possible. The town manager said workers had discovered that under the road was laid brick — likely the remnants of the old Barrington Brick Company. Mr. Cunha said the work would require a backhoe to dig up the asphalt and laid brick.

Mr. Rimoshytus countered, stating that the pulverizer could grind up bricks too, but Mr. Cunha disagreed. 

Eventually, council member Rob Humm suggested the council vote on whether or not to close South Lake Drive to vehicle traffic; he said officials could later decide how to handle the road.

Councilor Carl Kustell said he did not want to simply close the road and then walk away from the situation. He said the road is used by many people who walk their dogs there, jog, ride bicycles, and fish in Echo Lake. 

Mr. Kustell asked if officials believed the road could still remain open for those types of uses, to which Mr. Cunha said it could.

The town manager suggested that it might be possible to use leftover asphalt from the current paving job to temporarily fill some of the potholes on South Lake Drive.

Mr. Humm later offered his opinion on the road, stating he believed the town should permanently close the road to vehicles. He said that move would make it safer for pedestrians to use.

Council President Michael Carroll made a motion to permanently close South Lake Drive to vehicle traffic; Mr. Kustell seconded it, and the council voted 4-0 to approve the motion. 

There was no discussion about the existing parking areas at either end of South Lake Drive. 

Opposed to road closure

A handful of residents had previously written letters to the editor, asking for the council to keep South Lake Drive open to vehicle traffic.

• Michael Mangione: “Closing the road is not the answer. In 2008, there was a similar proposal to close South Lake Drive due to the same problems. There were a number of residents who opposed it..”

• Ann Mason: “It is a responsibility of our town to keep up our roads even minimally. This has not happened for South Lake Drive for many years...”

• Katheryn Rosener: “How did Barrington forget to care for this road? The road in my opinion is unsafe at this point for running, walking or riding a bike. I firmly believe the town should fix the road so that we can all enjoy this iconic place in Barrington. The repairs should allow cars to once again drive down this beautiful road.”

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