Editorial: This is not the right turf plan for Barrington

Posted 11/17/21

The latest proposal for artificial turf fields in Barrington was conceived by good people, volunteering their time, off and on, for more than two years. That does not make it a good plan.

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Editorial: This is not the right turf plan for Barrington

Posted

The latest proposal for artificial turf fields in Barrington was conceived by good people, volunteering their time, off and on, for more than two years. That does not make it a good plan.

We have advocated numerous times for better playing fields, more playing fields, and most recently, artificial turf in Barrington. Unfortunately, we believe this new plan creates as many problems as it solves, and it would not be a productive use of taxpayer funds.

The committee’s vast research about artificial turf, the various material options, and the environmental and safety concerns, should be all preserved for future plans. However, we suggest that everything else about the plan was flawed from the opening paragraphs.

Before this committee convened, no one ever suggested that youth sports teams should be able to play games at all times, even through inclement weather. Yet the committee seemed to make all decisions based on the premise that youth leagues must have access to weather-proof surfaces (artificial turf) for all their needs.

Here are the facts, all of which compromise the quality of life for youth sports leagues:

• Too many of Barrington’s fields drain poorly, thus rendering them unusable for much of the wet seasons;

• Too many of Barrington’s facilities lack adequate parking, safe traffic flow, or quality viewing areas;

• Too many sports are vying for too few spaces.

Perhaps an eight-acre artificial turf surface somewhere in Barrington might improve all these situations, but it should not be shoved into the high school campus.

Here are our recommendations for a better plan:

Invest in BHS

Separate the high school’s needs from the youth needs. Aside from the Shaw’s plaza, Barrington High School is the busiest facility in town. In non-Covid times, it is like a mini-community college, with sports, conferences, performances, parent nights, etc. taking places five to six days a week.

Barrington should create the best high school facility possible, separate and apart from all other needs. That can include an artificial turf surface at the stadium field, improvement of all infrastructure (maybe replacing 50-year-old chain link fencing) and navigable paths and modern viewing areas to all fields (so grandparents can stop dragging lawn chairs to watch their grandkids play sports).

Make turf feasible

Given years of opposition and failure, if turf advocates want to submit a proposal with a snowball’s chance of getting approval in this town, it can’t be to carpet eight acres at the majestic entrance to town, across from the historic “White Church.” Even turf advocates don’t think a bright green carpet greeting all visitors to Barrington is a good idea.

The best solution does not seem that complicated, as nearly every other high school in the state of Rhode Island, both public and private, has already done so: Put artificial turf at Victory Field, to be shared by football, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams, where there are already bleachers and lights.

Change Haines

The committee got one thing right — Haines Park may be the only viable area left for major field improvements. So then why is the Haines plan so meager? Why is everyone scared to cut down a few trees?

Haines may be the least utilized state park in all of Rhode Island, with the least attractive or accessible natural spaces. Vast areas are unused, overgrown and unkempt.

We suggest tearing up the Haines plan and creating a better long-range vision for this space — one that changes everything. The access road is narrow and dangerous. Change it. The parking areas are narrow and congested. Redo them. The fields are scattered and wedged into awkward spaces. Change them.

Haines could accommodate far more fields — fields that are newly designed to drain properly, have safe access and be used year-round by the many youth sports teams in town.

To help win state approval, consider ways to make the rest of Haines more accessible to all. Walking paths, a fitness trail and other enhancements, to both preserve the natural world but welcome people into it, would go a long way to winning approval from both DEM and environmentalists.

Do these three things and create a plan that makes all recreational facilities better for the next 50 years.

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Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.