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, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

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.

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
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.