BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Police are asking for the public’s help finding whoever set the beloved Barrington “beach tree” on fire overnight.
Officers responded to Barrington Beach Thursday morning after a resident reported finding the tree half burnt.
Underneath the tree was a butane cannister inside a metal bucket, according to a police report obtained by 12 News.
The police report states that an officer brought the cannister to a nearby Ace Hardware, where an employee confirmed the store doesn’t sell the brand.
The tree was placed on the beach by the Barrington Lions Club. President Cat Horn tells 12 News the tree is a symbol of joy for the holidays, adding that this is only the second time the volunteer organization has put the tree up.
Horn said the seashells are placed underneath the tree for visitors to write personalized messages on before hanging them up ornaments.
“The messages that people put on here are heartfelt,” Horn said. “Yes, it’s Christmas. But there’s also a lot of remembrances. There’s a lot of deep, personal meaning to the names and the messages that people put on here.”
Horn said the resident who spotted the charred tree was stopping by to hang an ornament.
“When they came down to put a remembrance on the tree, [they found] it had been vandalized,” Horn said. “They were so heartbroken that they did something about it.”
That resident was so upset that, within six hours of discovering the burnt tree, they had ordered a new one and had it delivered to the beach.
(Story continues below gallery.)
Horn said volunteers were able to salvage some of the damaged seashells.
“This tree means a lot to this community,” Horn said. “Until [Thursday] morning, it didn’t really hit me how much it really means to people.”
Police have not identified any suspects, but Horn said it doesn’t matter.
What does matter, Horn said, is how the community responded.
“I don’t want to focus on whoever did it,” Horn said. “I want to focus on what’s here and what we have now to enjoy … kindness and joy overwhelms stupid acts.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Barrington Police Department at (401) 437-3933.