JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Frank Meyer has lived in Jamestown for nearly two decades, and he tells Eyewitness News that this year he’s seen a significant increase in visitors coming to explore the seaside community.
“The foot traffic has increased tremendously,” he said. “Most of these people we haven’t seen before.”
When Meyer walks out his front door, he’s steps away from Mackerel Cove Beach. He said the usually quiet community shoreline has been crowded for weeks now.
He’s one of many longtime Jamestown residents who are expressing concern over the uptick in visitors.
“It just seems really crowded compared to any other year,” Michael Phelan said.
Jamestown Town Administrator Jamie Hainsworth tells Eyewitness News residents aren’t imagining it ─ there has been a significant increase in visitors.
Hainsworth said the town has recently had to step up its parking enforcement, adding that officers have issued 400% more parking tickets compared to last year.
Phelan wasn’t surprised. He said he’s seen an egregious number of people parking illegally.
“You’re seeing a lot of people park all over the place,” he said. “There’s not a lot of parking.”
Hainsworth said another contributing factor has to do with the fact that nearly 20% of the properties are owned by part-time residents, and many have come to Jamestown to escape.
Lifelong resident Devin Bridgman tells Eyewitness News that the overcrowding has also led to a littering problem.
“I don’t want to talk bad about people, but how hard is it to walk 10 feet to a trash can?” he said. “It’s ruining it for people like us, too.”
Phelan tells Eyewitness News that the beach at Veterans Memorial Park has been unusually packed with people this summer.
“This beach has had 100-to-150 people here on it during the weekends when its above 80 degrees and you don’t usually see people here because this isn’t really a public beach,” he said. “It’s more of a community beach for people to come sailing. It’s not like Narraganset Beach.”
Another Jamestown resident, Catherine Gregory, started an online petition urging the Jamestown Town Council and Hainsworth to tighten parking restrictions.
“While we are willing to share these amenities, the influx has brought great concern for our island’s natural resources and the well-being of our local residents during this global pandemic,” Gregory wrote.
Eyewitness News reached out to Gregory for comment but did not hear back. So far, her petition has more than 300 signatures.