Editorial: If not turf, what?

Posted 3/29/24

If a majority of the Barrington Town Council would never, under any circumstances, consider installing an artificial turf playing surface anywhere in Barrington, maybe they should have shared that …

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Editorial: If not turf, what?


If a majority of the Barrington Town Council would never, under any circumstances, consider installing an artificial turf playing surface anywhere in Barrington, maybe they should have shared that perspective with the town’s $80,000 athletic fields consultant before undermining half his work.

Their perspective became crystal clear at the most recent council meeting, when President Carl Kustell and Councilors Annelise Conway and Kate Berard left no doubt where they stand on the issue. Berard is adamantly opposed to building an artificial, outdoor turf field in town, but she is at least willing to let Barrington voters decide how they feel about the issue. The other two are, so far, unwilling to bring it to a vote of the people.

Their rigid positions are frustrating for all who have been hoping for a better recreational infrastructure in Barrington. However, even that frustration is tempered, because most of the residents who care about the issue gave up long ago. They have no confidence that Barrington will ever address its embarrassing and pathetic array of sports fields.

The irony is that so many of Barrington’s youth spend half their playing days on artificial surfaces. The high school lacrosse teams opened their spring seasons with a week of tryouts and practices last week. Every session, for all lacrosse players in Grades 9 to 12, were held on the artificial surfaces at East Providence High School — requiring students and parents to drive to and from another community, every day, to play their sports.

This week, the boys’ practices are being held at Brown University, requiring twice daily trips, in their own cars, through the Washington Bridge morass, just to play their sport. Their first seven games this year are all on the road; Barrington’s grass fields are unplayable, so they travel to play on other communities’ artificial turf surfaces for the first half of their season.

The high school’s field hockey team plays its entire road schedule on artificial turf. Soccer and football teams play a majority of their away games on turf. Youth soccer and lacrosse players spend much of their winter months playing on indoor artificial turf surfaces. They travel great distances for winter leagues, skills clinics and captains’ practices.

Literally thousands of Barrington children play sports games on artificial turf surfaces. They just don’t do it in Barrington. They pay hefty fees, or they privately fund-raise, to rent other facilities. They burn fossil fuels while driving here, there and everywhere, wasting hours upon hours of their lives, just to play sports in facilities that their own community does not provide.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: No one wants artificial turf because they’re in love with artificial turf. They want artificial turf because it solves a problem — in this case, an array of problems. Barrington has too few sports fields. Its few fields are in pathetic condition. And they are playable for just a few months every year.

So here is a question for the councilors who oppose artificial turf, and for the handful of passionate opponents who wail at the thought of “plastic grass” in Barrington: If not artificial turf, then what? What other solutions will provide adequate recreational infrastructure for the citizens of Barrington?

It would be a great question to ask an expert consultant — if the town hadn’t already wasted his $80,000 effort.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.