BURRILLVILLE – After a second year of downed attendance and revenue, hindered by both weather and pandemic concerns, officials at Spring Lake are planning improvements to the facility that include work on the hall, bathrooms, concession stand, arcade, wifi, sewers and more, according to a memo presented to the Burrillville Town Council this week.
The facility operated at a loss of $23,497 during the 2021 season, which saw the beach open only 83 days – and rained out on 21.
“This season was still somewhat muted compared to a normal season due to COVID attendance reductions and rainouts,” noted the memorandum on the year end closeout.
“Three weeks of rain is a lot of lost income,” said Recreation Director Andrea Hall, noting that the pandemic has also resulted in a major loss of revenue. “Two years ago, we tried to raise prices to get back in the black, and then COVID hit.”
The beach did gain back some 6,300 patrons in 2021 compared to 2020 numbers, which were the lowest in five seasons. A tally of patronage and finances since 2016 notes that 93 percent of beach visitors are out-of-town residents.
And now, town officials say it is time for some overdue repairs.
“The amount of work that needs to be done at the beach is well over $1 million over a number of years,” said Town Manager Michael Wood, adding that Public Works Director Jeff McCormick has put together a long-term strategy for the needed repairs.
Officials hope to complete the most urgent beach work by late spring, addressing a bend in a sewer line that caused a backup at the beach store late in the 2021 season. That emergency repair is expected to cost around $20,000.
Other proposed improvements include replacement of eight leaking skylights at the arcade; the addition of wifi; work on drainage; repainting of buildings; installation of a new grease pit at the concession stand and remediation of mold; replenishment of beach sand; replacement of rotted wall in Champlin’s Hall, along with the kitchen floor, grease pit and exterior columns and refurbishment of bathrooms; replacement of boardwalk decking and installation of a new volleyball court and waterslide, among others.
“The idea is to improve the experience of what the beach is,” said Wood. “We think it’s a good first start. We’d like to get it before the start of the season so we can see the beach experience upgraded.”
To finance repairs, councilors approved immediate transfer of funds totaling roughly $45,000 to address sewers and wifi, and spending of $100,000 from the town’s 2023 Capital Improvement Project account, or the needed match if grant funding is obtained.
The council also authorized officials to apply for Rhode Island Recreation Acquisition and Development Grants, with two applications for projects totaling $100,000 or $400,000.
Hall credited Beach Manager Judy Lopez with efforts to reduce staff when needed and keep expenses manageable.
“I do think she deserves a lot of credit for the juggling act,” said Councilor Dennis Anderson. “I’m happy we’re not in worst shape.”
Councilor Jeremy Bailey agreed, noting that his daughter worked at the beach over the summer.
“Judy has it on lock down. She’s really on top of it,” Bailey said. “She really looks out for the expenses.”
Editor’s note: An original version of this article stated that 93 percent of visitors were from Burrillville, when they are actually out-of-town residents. We apologize for the error.