Barrington Parks and Recreation Commission examines tennis court usage

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The Barrington Parks and Recreation Commission continued a discussion on local tennis courts Thursday night, once again examining possible methods of curtailing the practice of out-of-town instructors setting up shop for hours on end.

The issue isn’t a new one for Barrington nor the commission. The town council enacted an ordinance last spring (on a commission recommendation) that requires private instructors utilizing local courts to register with the recreation department.

The ordinance, however, doesn’t seem to have had much effect.

In August, the commission heard from Dee Burke, a tennis pro who offers lessons through the recreation department. She said out-of-town instructors were still coming into Barrington and giving lessons for hours on end.

On Thursday, Tony Cunha said the same thing. He too teaches through the recreation department and said as recently as Wednesday he witnessed a single instructor occupy a court seven hours. Not only are these instructors from out-of-town, Mr. Cunha said, those receiving the lessons tend to be from outside Barrington as well.

Mr. Cunha also said entire leagues have come into town on some instances, taking up multiple courts at a time, something that represents a missed revenue opportunity to the town and prohibits court access for local residents.

Mr. Cunha said one factor behind the trend is the quality of courts in Barrington. He said that while other communities may not maintain their facilities, Barrington has some of the best courts around and accordingly, the quality attracts instructors to town.

In August, the commission voted in favor of fees outlining what in-town instructors and non-resident instructors should be required to pay in exchange for renting a court. The fees were $8 and $10 per hour, respectively.

This week, however, the commission discussed potentially raising these fees to $10 per hour for resident instructors and $20 per hour for non-resident instructors.

One tool that could make scheduling the courts more efficient, and subsequently ensuring local residents have adequate court access, is an online calendar. Recreation department administrator Joan Warren said work is underway on getting the calendar up and running. The tool would allow everyone to see when courts had been reserved and for what times.

The commission also continued a discussion on signs at each of the courts. While a sign posted at the high school courts states time limits and a notification that instructors must register with the town, the Kent Street courts have no signs whatsoever. Chianese, meanwhile, has signs detailing time limits but nothing banning animal owners from walking their pets on the courts.

Department of public works supervisor Joe Piccerelli, who serves as a liaison, said his department could help make any signs if the commission could provide wording.

Commission chairman Michael Seward said he envisions residents being proactive with assisting in enforcement, notifying the recreation department if an instructor seemed to operating outside local regulations.

In the end, the commission took no formal action on the matter. The group is expected to receive updated information on court rental fees charged by other communities before deciding what should be adopted for Barrington.

 

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