Barrington’s recreation director retires Friday, Aug. 31, with many fond memories but with some frustration and disappointment as well.
John Taylor, 73, ends five years as the town’s part-time recreation chief – a time of some significant accomplishments, such as the new bathhouse at Barrington Beach, more programs, the annual summer camps, and more playing fields.
But Taylor also leaves with a feeling that a lot has been left undone, such as an expansion of the summer concert series, and a community tennis program.
Taylor actually could be Barrington’s last recreation director in title – a situation he disdains. Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr. is searching for a part-time director of leisure services to take his place.
“I think I accomplished a lot through hard work and my passion for the program,” said Taylor. “People have told me they like what we’re selling. So why not build on it? There is so much to do. I only scratched the surface.”
Taylor believes, therefore, that Barrington needs a full-time recreation director. It’s a conversation with the town manager, he said: “We never really had.”
“And I’m not leaving because I’m not full time,” said Taylor. “Far from it. But I think we need to move forward. I think it’s unrealistic to do this without a full-time professional.”
Taylor actually got involved in recreation when Barrington built Kids Kove playground. He was serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission at the time. The former chairman of the board asked him to head the subcommittee for the playground behind Town Hall, he said.
Soon after the playground was built, Taylor agreed to take over as part-time recreation chief, he said. His experience in recreation and sports at Rhode Island College over the previous 41 years seemed to make him a natural for the post.
He said he immediately tried to focus his efforts on children in town who needed recreational outlets – the kids who don’t make the high school sports teams or who can't afford to buy their recreation.
“I think we’ve come a long way,” he said. “I made it work. I was a one-man show. But I would like to see more.”
The beach may be what Taylor lists as his proudest accomplishment, despite some opposition from neighbors at the beach and even some other Barrington officials.
“I think I brought the beach back to life,” he said. “If there was a miracle in all this, it was the beach and the new bathhouse. Everybody in town gained waterfront property.”
Taylor also takes great pride in the summer camps -- Pokanoket and Tiny Tots, in particular.
“Few said they wanted their money back,” he said.
And with the revenue generated from the camps and the beach-pass fees -- almost $70,000, the recreation program almost paid for itself this year. His budget, Taylor said, was about $105,000. He was paid $25,000.
Still, Taylor said, he has become frustrated and disappointed at not being able to create links with other recreation groups in town – a goal DeAngelis hopes can be reached with a new leisure-services chief who hasn’t been quite as confrontational as Taylor was at times.
And the teens in Barrington, Taylor said, still “have nothing to do. And I don’t know how to pull that together.”
Taylor also feels that his vision for recreation programs in Barrington simply does not seem to generate the support in town it should.
“I don’t think people see the value of investing in good recreational programs,” Taylor said. “It can improve the quality of life in a town and boost home values.”
Taylor leaves, thus, with some bittersweet memories of his five years on the job. He’s had plenty of good times mixed in with the disappointments and occasional low spot, he said.
Remember the sand castle on the beach he demanded be torn down because it included driftwood and lumber? Taylor still thinks it was a hazard for anyone on the beach, even though it may have given some credence to a nickname he said he acquired: “Johnny Rotten.”
A caricature given to him by fellow workers at a send-off last week shows the sand castle. He was drawn to look like “Popeye.”
“We had a lot of fun with that,” he said.
Taylor wishes his successor well, whatever his or her title.
“The problems with recreation can be solved,” he said.
For the first time in half a decade, that will be someone else’s job.