JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Beavertail Point, at the southern tip of Jamestown, is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Rhode Island. Beavertail Lighthouse is the third oldest lighthouse in the country and still serves as a point of navigation for boats and ships entering Narragansett Bay.
“We are experiencing significant erosion on this property,” said Jennifer Ogren, the assistant administrator for the Bureau of Natural Resources and Parks within the R.I. Department of Environmental Management.
The peninsula is exceptionally vulnerable to storms. Super Storm Sandy and other storms have battered the area with large waves, destructive winds and heavy rain. Erosion is undermining the land right up to the road near the lighthouse, and sea level rise is exacerbating the problem, according to Ogren.
“We felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy was probably one of the biggest,” she said. “We had all kinds of granite stepping and we did attempt to do some kind of shoring up, but that was washed away.”
For safety reasons, the DEM closed a portion of the road on Monday.
“We’re going to be restricting vehicle access around the loop but still trying to give as many people access to this beautiful space, so people will still be able to walk and cycle around,” Ogren said.
The lower portion of the loop around the lighthouse is now closed to vehicle traffic but the upper part near the parking lots remains open.
Robin Tregenza of Jamestown used to bring her kids to this area while learning to drive.
“Well, I can understand why they’re doing it, but it’s an end of an era,” she said. “As they say, it’s the jewel of Jamestown. It’s a beautiful location and it needs to be protected.”
More than likely, there isn’t anything that can be done to fix the erosion problem at Beavertail Point and as a result, the road closure will probably be permanent.
“I think what’s really important: anything we do workwise, jetty systems or any type of shoring up this piece of land is, in essence, going to be covering this iconic shoreline,” Ogren noted.
In the coming months, the DEM will be taking steps to make the area more compliant with the American with Disabilities Act so it can be enjoyed by everyone.