As beaches prepare to reopen, residents express concern over new restrictions


BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — In the Ocean State, Memorial Day weekend usually signals the start of summer.

But this year, hitting the beach will look much different due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday that only two state beaches will be allowed to reopen on Memorial Day: East Matunuck and Scarborough.

The state posted guidelines online regarding face masks, social distancing and beach capacity.

All employees and visitors to beaches are required to wear face coverings in areas where people can congregate, such as boardwalks, restrooms, changing rooms and concession stands, but should not wear their masks into the water.

The new rules aren’t sitting well with some Rhode Islanders.

“I don’t want to be sick, and I don’t want anyone else to get sick, but some of the restrictions are tough,” Narragansett resident said.

Denise Gorenski, another Narragansett resident, said shes lived by the beach her entire life, and these restrictions only add to the disappointing year for South County.

“I don’t like them, I don’t wear a mask,” Gorenski said. “There’s a lot of things that have been canceled already…All that bring people into town.”

Even though East Matunuck and Scarborough are the only two state beaches opening up, Barrington Beach will also be open to anyone willing to make the trip.

Michele Geremia, Barrington’s director of parks and recreation, said the town has implemented their own safety precautions, including having lifeguards on-duty, as well as an extra staff member dedicated to cleaning and sanitizing high-traffic areas.

“We’ve gone to great extremes to make sure people feel safe while still having fun at the beach,” Geremia said. “We had the bathroom sprayed a couple of weeks ago with an antimicrobial spray that’s supposed to last six months.”

Geremia said face coverings will be required in heavily populated areas, but the beach will be open for anyone looking for some fun in the sun.

Eyewitness News reached out to non-state beaches to find out if and when they’d be reopening:

  • Easton’s Beach, Newport: Open for walking only; date for when it will reopen for swimming yet to be decided.
  • Sandy Point Beach, Portsmouth: Open now on weekends only; will open on weekdays beginning June 20.
  • Charlestown Town Beach: Scheduled to open to residents on May 23.
  • Third Beach, Newport: Opens May 23 with no lifeguards on duty.
  • Oakland/Buttonwood Beaches, Warwick: Oakland Beach park is currently open; both beaches remain closed to swimmers.
  • Barrington Beach: Opens May 23.

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