Council Agrees: Stop Latham Park Erosion First
Barrington Town Council approves recommendation by Parks and Recreation Commission to craft an erosion-control plan before building a new playground at Latham Park.
Halting the erosion of the shoreline at Latham Park in the Bay Spring neighborhood has always been part of the master plan for the site.
But it got some renewed attention at last Monday’s Town Council meeting because of a push by two neighborhood groups who want to renovate the playground at the park – even if they can’t agree on a play area for the bay-front facility.
The groups did manage to get the Parks and Recreation Commission to agree that erosion control must be addressed first – the sooner the better. That’s the recommendation Melissa Horne, chairwoman of the parks commission, asked the councilors to endorse.
“We voted for the Town Council to direct the town manager to address the erosion problem before any playground is approved,” Horne said.
The councilors did just that by a unanimous 5-0 vote after hearing Horne say that “erosion there is pretty well documented. Before more investment is made, we need to make sure the improvements are protected.”
Indeed, Phase One of the master plan for Latham Park recognizes that the shoreline needs to be stabilized first. It’s item A in the plan.
Introducing a "creative play area" does not come until Phase Three of the master plan. That’s the part of the plan that has the two groups at an impasse.
The Town Council did hear statements from representatives of the two playground groups, who are divided over putting in a traditional set of swings and sliding board or a “natural” play area made of earth berms, logs, trees, rocks and water.
“We must remember that this is a children’s playground,” said Councilor Kate Weymouth before casting her vote for the erosion study. “And we must recognize that people can be uncomfortable with creative thinking and new ideas.”
With the councilors’ approval, Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr. said he will now commission a study to see what needs to be done “once and for all to halt the erosion.”
DeAngelis said he plans to draft an RFQ (request for qualifications) to solicit the expertise needed to study the site and develop cost estimates for a “shovel-ready project.”
“It’s time we had a good, sound concrete plan,” he said.
Town Councilor Bill DeWitt asked DeAngelis if he could give an estimate for the cost of the study.
“I hesitate to give a number with bids to be sought,” he said.
DeWitt then reminded everyone that Barrington is facing a significant increase in its pension costs, which will severely limit the money available to do studies like this one.
It is the lack of funds for Latham Park – funds from a recreation bond that were shifted to Barrington Beach instead, that put the master plan on the shelf even as a new playground was being sought.