PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding residents to safely enjoy the outdoors by taking the necessary precautions of gathering only in small groups of five or less and practicing social distancing. DEM environmental police officers are coordinating with local police departments to monitor fishing areas, state bike paths and management areas for compliance and will be issuing citations to violators, if necessary.
"Rhode Islanders must continue to adhere to social distancing rules and not gather in groups of more than five in order to safely enjoy the outdoors," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Whether you're fishing, hiking, or biking, we ask that you keep your distance from others and engage in these activities by yourself or with members of your immediate family. And especially during this critical time when we're all longing to get outside for some fresh air and physical activity, DEM is encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors close to home by taking a walk around the block or spending time in their backyards."
DEM urges the public to be respectful of the environment and our natural spaces by properly disposing of masks, gloves, and cleaning wipes in trash receptacles – where they belong. DEM has received complaints from residents who found used personal protective equipment thrown on walkways, paths, in the woods, or in other public areas. Help stop the spread of germs and protect our environment by disposing of these items properly.
Freshwater Fishing Areas Certain Rhode Island lakes, ponds, rivers and streams -- that will allow anglers to adhere to social distancing rules -- are now open to fish for trout. On April 6, DEM adopted an emergency regulation opening the trout fishing season early with new restrictions to reduce the number of anglers each day and eliminate the crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of trout fishing season.
To reduce the number of people fishing at any given time and mitigate crowds during the COVID-19 public health crisis, DEM has implemented a system that staggers the days when licensed anglers can fish. Those with last names beginning with A through M can only fish on even numbered calendar days, and those with last names beginning with N through Z can only fish on odd numbered calendar days. DEM is imposing parking restrictions at fishing sites during the next two weekends and has removed porta-johns from fishing sites as a public health measure. And, since State Parks are temporarily closed due to COVID-19, ponds in the major parks – such as Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods, Peck Pond in Pulaski Park, and Meshanticut Park Pond in Cranston – will not be opened until later this season. These areas will be monitored by environmental police, and citations may be issued to violators.
Anglers must follow these guidelines during the COVID-19 public health crisis as follows: • Do not visit lakes, ponds or other fishing areas if you feel ill or are exhibiting symptoms of illness. • Plan a trip to a nearby fishing area for a short, local visit since restroom facilities are not available. • Maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between persons. • Do not gather in groups of more than 5 people. • If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and find that crowds are forming or the parking lot is full, please leave and choose a different location or return at another time or day. • Follow CDC's guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during your fishing trip. Wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoid surfaces that are touched often.
DEM environmental police officers and DEM staff will be present at fishing locations to assist licensed anglers, answer questions, and monitor fishing spots for compliance, and the Department may adjust the fishing season if necessary. DEM will keep updating information to guide people and will post this information at www.dem.ri.gov/fishing.
Bike Paths 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 remain open. It is essential that people act responsibly and follow the rules in order to keep them open for public enjoyment. This is a situation that DEM will be monitoring very closely. We ask that people avoid these bike paths if they are crowded and find an alternate place to ride close to home.
Anyone using the bike paths must practice proper social distancing on the path, providing at least six feet of space between you and other users. This includes anticipating others on the path and stepping off the path onto the shoulder if necessary. Bike path users can avoid crowds by planning their trip in the morning or late afternoon as the bike paths are busiest in the middle of the day. Also, those who are ill should not be using the bike path and instead remain at home. For bike safely tips/rules of the road, visit RIDOT's website at: http://www.dot.ri.gov/community/bikeri/
Management Areas State management areas remain open for the time being, but this is a situation that DEM will be monitoring very closely. People should avoid trails if they are crowded and maintain social distancing on all trails. We ask all Rhode Islanders to abide by local and state stay-at-home orders, and limit travel whenever possible, even for approved recreation activities. If you do go to a refuge, preserve, management area or other open spaces, and see that parking is limited or lots are full, you should change your plans and take your walk back home.
State Parks, Beaches and Campgrounds State parks, beaches and campgrounds are closed due to the COVID-19 public health crisis. DEM asks the public not to drive to parks and beaches. The entrances are blocked, there is no public parking, and these facilities are closed to vehicular traffic. DEM recommends staying local, and is not prohibiting Rhode Islanders from walking or riding bikes at parks and beaches if they are congregated in groups of five or less and are adhering to social/physical distancing rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. DEM will be patrolling these sites and dispersing groups of people.
Outdoor Safety There are many ways for residents to safely enjoy the outdoors, as long as they take the necessary precautions by adhering to the Governor's guidance on not gathering in groups of more than five and practicing social distancing. For details on safety guidelines, visit https://health.ri.gov/diseases/ncov2019/
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 a list of Frequently Asked Questions and updates on the DEM closures, visit http://riparks.com/covid19.php
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.