Barrington's parks, fields and beach ordered closed
Manager: 'We tried leaving them open, but people weren't following the rules'
All parks, fields and the town beach in Barrington will be closed, starting on Friday.
Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha signed an executive order on Wednesday, April 1 mandating, among many things, that the town-owned areas be closed to the public, as officials work to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
"We tried leaving them open, but people weren't following the rules," Mr. Cunha said, during an interview on Wednesday.
The town manager is referring to the rule for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than five people, and for individuals to maintain at least six feet between themselves and others. Mr. Cunha called that physical distancing, rather than social distancing, as he said social interaction among people is still important.
The town manager said signs will be posted at the parks, beach and fields reminding residents about the restriction. He said the police will enforce the order.
"The enforcement will be when someone's doing something they shouldn't be doing," he said.
Mr. Cunha said people are still allowed to exercise outside: "There's nothing preventing people from jogging or taking a walk" or playing basketball on a hoop in front of their house.
However, residents are no longer allowed to use the high school track, town athletic fields, basketball courts or tennis courts. And the beach parking lot will be off-limits, as will the vehicle entrance to Veterans' Park.
"The beach was the worst problem," he said, adding that there were large groups of people — he mentioned teenagers — hanging out in close proximity to each other.
Mr. Cunha said the town had locked the gate to the basketball court at Chianese Park, but someone cut the lock. He said the town replaced the lock, but that did not work either. Mr. Cunha said he was driving by Chianese the other day when he saw a boy shooting hoops inside the locked court. He asked the boy how he had gotten onto the court.
"He said he threw the ball over and climbed the fence," Mr. Cunha said.
Mr. Cunha said he discussed the executive order with numerous people. He said he spoke with leaders of other cities and towns, and also talked to the Barrington Town Council members and the town solicitor.
"We want to make sure we're doing it right," he said.
The order remains in effect until April 12.
“The health and safety of our community is our number one priority,” Mr. Cunha said. “Physical distancing is the most effective way to flatten the curve of COVID-19. We all must do our part to follow the Governor’s orders to stay home and limit our social contact.”
Also included in the town manager's executive order is a reminder that all Rhode Island residents are required to stay home and restrict travel for essential purposes only, such as buying food or getting medical care.
The order also calls for all Barrington residents and visitors who have recently visited another state or country to self-quarantine for 14 days from the day they arrive in Barrington.
"This does not include those who were briefly in Massachusetts to, for example, obtain groceries," stated the order.
“We urge all Barrington residents and visitors to follow the Governor’s directives,” said Barrington Police Chief Dino DeCrescenzo. “Every time you leave your home for non-essential purposes, you are putting the health and safety of our first-responders, health care professionals, and your fellow neighbors at risk. While we don’t want to have to issue fines for non-compliance, but we will do so if we observe people in Barrington ignoring these orders.”
As of Wednesday, April 1, there were 12 Barrington residents who had been confirmed positive for the coronavirus.
Do your part
In his order, Mr. Cunha wrote: "In summary, please do not see how far the rules can be stretched, and do not look for loopholes or workarounds to evade the purposes of this order. Retired healthcare workers, many of advanced age, are heroically coming out of retirement to care for the sick. The Governor has made it clear that Rhode Island is projected to have a shortage of hospital beds to care for those in need of medical care if the spread of COVID-19 is not stemmed. Please take a moment to consider seriously what that means. For the sake of our neighbors and for those who are putting themselves at risk daily to fill essential roles in our Town and State, please ask yourself whether you are doing all that you can to help reduce the awful impact that this virus is having on our society. Please do your part. The risks being taken and the sacrifices being made by others are too grave for us to do less."