PROVIDENCE – With hot weather and sunny skies expected this holiday weekend, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding beach visitors that they must wear face coverings while on the pavilions and practice social distancing at Rhode Island state beaches. Rhode Islanders are urged to continue to follow safety guidance and precautions and not become complacent about the serious nature of the COVID pandemic. Staff from DEM and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) will be handing out free masks at state beaches this weekend to those who need them or are not wearing them in common areas.
"We cannot let up on our efforts to fight the pandemic," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "The health of our loved ones, the opportunity for children to go back to school, the successful reopening of our businesses, these are what are at stake. People need to wear a mask in all public places where they are close to other people. That's the rule and it's the civic-minded thing to do. Whether to pick up food at the concessions or use the restrooms, beach visitors must wear face coverings. It is easy and one of the most effective ways of limiting the spread of the coronavirus."
DEM is advising beach visitors that warm temperatures bring the potential for traffic backups and closed lots at our beaches, and beach traffic will be diverted when overcrowding occurs. The parking lots at Scarborough and Misquamicut State Beaches have been reduced to 25 percent of their normal capacity. State and local law enforcement agencies are teaming up to limit crowds, manage traffic, and crack down on illegal parking. DEM strongly encourages anyone who is thinking about coming to a state beach this weekend to check www.riparks.com for the parking capacity status of each beach lot before getting into the car. If lots are nearly full, people should make other plans.
DEM is encouraging residents from Connecticut and Massachusetts to stay close to home and visit their local beaches. By keeping crowds down and allowing for physical distancing on the sand, DEM is trying to protect public health and safety and alleviate traffic problems in beach communities.
DEM offers the following tips to ease traffic lines at the entrance booths:
1. Get your pass in advance or pay for your daily pass using a credit card or exact change. Nobody likes waiting, especially on a hot sticky day. But you can speed things up – for yourself and the people behind you – by having exact change or credit card ready when you reach the entrance booth.
2. Buy your beach passes online. DEM has discontinued selling season passes at beach entrances because each transaction takes up to seven minutes to process, whereas the sale of a day pass takes only about a minute. With thousands of beachgoers, the longer transactions add up and slow traffic. Weekends and holidays are the busiest days at state beaches, so you'll save time if you buy a season parking pass online. If you prefer a person-to-person transaction, you may buy season passes at the offices of DEM's parking vendor, LAZ, in the overflow parking lot at Scarborough State Beach. This office is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. A Rhode Island resident season pass costs $30. Anyone who buys their pass online or before heading to the beach will be able to use newly installed express lanes for quick entry at Scarborough North, Scarborough South, Roger Wheeler, East Matunuck, and Misquamicut state beaches. Be prepared that during peak hours, express lanes may convert to regular lanes to allow more cars off the road and into lots.
3. Be patient and plan for delays. Even with the short processing time for daily pass sales, you will likely have to wait in line to reach the entrance booth.
4. Use the new online tool to check whether beach parking lots are full before taking a drive to the beach. Beach visitors can go to www.riparks.com/beachpass to check on parking lot status, and then plan their beach day accordingly. Using a color-coded message in which green indicates parking is available, orange indicates the lot is near capacity, and red means the lot is full, the website gives beachgoers the parking capacity status of the five major state beaches – Scarborough North and South, Roger Wheeler, East Matunuck, and Misquamicut – about once every hour.
5. Daily and Seasonal Parking Rates. The fee structure for the 2020 season is the same as last year. The daily beach parking fee for RI residents is $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends and holidays. The fee for a season pass for residents is $30. Non-resident parking is $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends and holidays. A season pass is $60 for non-residents. A 50% discount on daily parking fees and season passes applies for senior citizens 65 years and older. Fees are based solely on the vehicle registration (i.e., license plate) of each vehicle entering beach facilities. All Rhode Island-registered vehicles will be subject to resident parking rates; non-Rhode Island plates will be subject to non-resident rates. Any Rhode Islander who already holds a 2019 no-cost disability beach pass may continue to use it for entry into state beach parking lots for the 2020 season. Those who have misplaced their 2019 pass or who are eligible for a new no-cost disability pass may contact the RI State Parks Headquarters at 667-6200 for instructions on how to obtain it.
Beach Visitors Can Order Food and Beverages Online from Salty's
To reduce lines and crowding in and around beach concession stands, DEM is encouraging beachgoers to use the new online system to order food and beverages from Salty's, the beach concessionaire at Roger Wheeler State Beach, East Matunuck State Beach, Salty Brine State Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and the Misquamicut State Beach. Beachgoers can make purchases at Salty's at http://www.saltysri.com/ and will receive a message when their order is ready for pick up. Customers should wear masks when they order or pick up food from the concessions.
Be a Good Environmental Steward and Carry-In, Carry-Out Your Trash
DEM is asking people to be good stewards and take personal responsibility. Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. Consistent with this ethic, DEM will continue the carry-in/carry-out trash policy that has been in effect since 1992. Using announcements, social media, signage, and advertising, DEM aims to raise public awareness of the positive values of bringing waste-free lunches and reusable meal and drink containers to the beach and the negative impacts of ugly and unsanitary trash on shorelines. Please be the solution, and not the reason for pollution. "It's important for Rhode Islanders to have access to state beaches and other places where they can recreate outdoors," said Director Coit. "We're working hard and taking the necessary steps to ensure that overcrowding does not occur, deep cleaning high-traffic areas often, and distributing masks so that visitors can safely enjoy our word-class state beaches. We ask visitors to do their part as well."
For updates 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.