Recreation Board eyes long-term fitness center

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 9:00am

The members of the Recreation Board are once again turning their attention to the issue of how to create a recreational center on the island for adults. The current focus of the group is almost entirely youth-oriented.

The discussion came up at the Recreation Board’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Near the end of the meeting, member Colleen Ernst said, “We have no physical activities during the winter?”

It was mentioned that there are some, including Pickle Ball at the school gym on Sundays, yoga classes and the like.

“What can we do?” asked Ernst.

“It’s a constant problem,” said Board Chair Chris Willi.

Willi said that the idea of a community center had been kicking around for years, and for one reason or another it never has been completed. He said any new project would take at least five years “before that kind of recreation space could be built.”

“As a board, can we start doing some of those things? Start raising money?” asked Ernst. “We have how many bars open, but we can’t have a space to exercise?”

Willi said the process would have to be started methodically — such as identifying town-owned properties that could be used, or not — and then getting on an upcoming Town Council agenda to get the ball rolling.

“It’s all about location, finding a location,” said Sniffen.

The Recreation Board has also started a toddler swimming program, and is looking for additional participants. The swimming classes will take place on Mondays at the YMCA in Peace Dale. The group is looking for about six more participants, for a total of 12. Parents have to be present, said Sniffen, and Recreation Department Assistant Cindy Lemon said that parents are actually not allowed in the water with their children. Anyone interested in enrolling their child can call the Recreation Department at (401) 466-3223 or email at

The tennis courts at Ball O’Brien Park may look a little more colorful if the proposal for a public art installation goes through. Sniffen said he was approached by island resident Sue Brown Black about the possibility of a New York City-based artist coming to the island “and doing an installation with the kids.”

Sniffen said the park is in the Historic District, which may pose some restrictions about what could be done. He also said that political statements or inappropriate images wold not be allowed. The board members would also see and approve the artwork before it is installed. “Is there an expense to it?” asked Recreation Board member Gail Heinz.

“Not to us,” said Sniffen. “I like everything to do with public art. I think it’s fantastic, especially when it involves kids. I think it’s a great thing and something the Rec Department should get behind.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Willi.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 8:15 a.m.