PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces the temporary closure of Rhode Island state parks and beaches due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. To protect public safety, all state parks and beaches, along with their parking areas, will be closed beginning Friday, April 3, until further notice.
"It is hard to close our beautiful state parks and beaches, but absolutely necessary," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Protecting public health is paramount, and that means adhering to social distancing and restricting access to public places where any groups might gather – such as parks and beaches."
The public must abide by these rules by refraining from visiting these areas. DEM Environmental Police Officers and DEM Parks' staff will continue to monitor state parks and beaches for compliance. If people are blatantly ignoring the new rules – if they choose to congregate at state parks and beaches, or if they're not complying with the physical distancing rules – they may be cited if actions and behavior are not corrected.
For now, the DEM-managed bike paths – the Blackstone River Bikeway, the East Bay Bike Path, Washington Secondary Bike Path – and the state management areas will remain open. This is a situation that DEM will be monitoring very closely. We ask that people avoid these bike paths if they are crowded and maintain social distancing on all bike paths and trails.
DEM also announces additional updates, as follows:
o The opening of Rhode Island state campgrounds is delayed until at least May 1st.
o The opening of the Great Swamp Shooting Range in West Kingston is delayed until at least May 1st. New information on the opening date will be provided when appropriate safeguards can be put in place.
o The Goddard Park Golf Course is closed until further notice, and new rules and practices may be put into effect when the course is opened.
o For state parks, all reservations of pavilions, picnic sites, fields and other areas are on hold until further notice.
o Opening Day of the trout-fishing season will not occur on its traditional date, which in a normal year would occur Saturday, April 11. DEM is still working out a plan to modify Opening Day. As soon as we have a plan in place, we will announce it.
DEM manages over 64,000 acres of land, only 7,400 of which are state parks. Closing state parks will put pressure on other public areas and conservation lands. To ensure adequate social distancing and avoid groups of more than five from congregating, people should not get in their car and drive to recreate. Instead, they should take their walks close to home with their family. "During the weeks ahead, I ask that people recreate close to home – in their backyards, on their stoop, and during a walk around the block. I encourage and recommend limiting your time outdoors to local outings and backyard adventures," Director Coit said.
In order to determine the opening dates for recreational facilities, DEM will continue to work very closely with the Governor and Dr. Alexander-Scott and her team at the Rhode Island Department of Health for guidance on this issue. In the meantime, DEM will continue with our preparations for getting our parks and beaches ready for the season.
While state facilities are closed, DEM reminds Rhode Islanders to be safe when they engage in physical activity in their local communities and to take the necessary precautions. People are encouraged to recreate close to home – in their backyards, on their stoop, and during a walk around the block. Together with partners, DEM has developed a list of 50 fun, nature-based activities that Rhode Islanders can engage in at home or in their backyards, or local neighborhoods. The activities are for all ages and can be done individually or with family members. The complete list is available online in both English and Spanish, and includes apps and virtual learning opportunities, reading and educator resources, DIY and home projects, and outdoor activities.
"I ask you to respect the closure and stay away from state parks and beaches," Director Coit noted. "This closure is temporary, and part of our having to adjust to a "new normal" practically every day."
DEM advises everyone to follow guidance about COVID-19 from Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Health. More information about COVID-19 and Rhode Island's response can be found here: https://health.ri.gov/diseases/ncov2019/
For updates on the DEM closures, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/.
For information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.