BURRILLVILLE – Quietly constructed over the summer through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burrillville’s newest park is now offering local visitors access to some attractions not found elsewhere in northern Rhode Island.
Oakland Park in Mapleville features a street hockey rink, walking path and pickle ball court. Situated on a roughly 3-acre lot that once held Remington Lumber, the park connects to Clear River, where the town has built a kayak/canoe launch.
The town first acquired the lot in 2016 for $90,000 with plans to build a bike path from Oakland/Mapleville to the North Smithfield town line, using the old nearby rail bed as a pathway.
“A major part of the old rail bed is owned by the Maplehill Mobile Home Park, and the town had an agreement to utilize the land for the bike path,” explained town Planner Ray Goff.
That same year, Burrillville was awarded a $400,000 recreation grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for the project, with funding slated to help build a 1.4 mile section of bike path.
But Goff notes that the MMHP Board of Directors decided that they did not want the path on their adjoining property on Tarkiln Road, and the plan had to be changed.
“We then amended the grant to omit that part of the bike path that was proposed on the MMHP land, and to use the funding to develop a small park,” Goff said.
Initial plans for the land had called for a pickle ball court, street hockey rink, parking and some picnic areas in conjunction with the path to be built in Phase 1.
“With the change in scope, it was decided to go ahead and complete the first phase of the project as it would be a benefit to the neighborhood,” Goff said.
The changes held up the project briefly, but it was back on track in late 2019 for spring 2020 construction season.
“That’s when the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” Goff said.
“In spite of the COVID pandemic, work on the park has continued in earnest,” he added.
The facility was largely completed in early summer, with some of the planting and hydroseeding finished this fall.
Now, the scenic park sits in an area tucked back from the road in the village, with access from Victory Highway. From the parking lot, visitors can view the new court and rink, or take a short walk to the river.
On Tuesday, Dec. 16, a group of kids played street hockey surrounded by homes decorated with elaborate holiday lighting.
For those unfamiliar, pickle ball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. The fenced area for the 2-4 four player game closely resembles a tennis court, only smaller.
And according to Parks and Recreation Director Andrea Hall, Burrillville’s latest park is a big hit with residents.
“Feedback about the park has been amazing,” Hall said. “I’ve received many phone calls and emails from families and even a few old timers who have stopped by to check it out and said they wish they had a street hockey rink like that when they were younger.”
Hall noted that she frequently drives through the area around 5 p.m., and the facility is always in use.
“It makes me really happy to see kids outside playing and having old school fun with their friends,” Hall said.
“Folks have been using it on a regular basis in the past few months,” Goff agreed.
Hall said her department has received several inquiries from teams that want to rent the rink for practice, but due to pandemic restrictions it is not currently an option.
And town officials say they are are still hopeful they can extend the small bike path with a link to North Smithfield, possibly via an on-road route.
A grand opening for the current facility, meanwhile, has been put on hold due to COVID-19.
“There is no definite date as of now,” Hall said.
But that won’t stop locals from visiting Burrillville’s newest recreation area for a chance to enjoy some fresh air and outdoor fun.