MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — As we approach the midpoint of summer and Rhode Island is in its second heat wave, Eyewitness News paid a visit to Second Beach in Middletown to see how people feel about the current beach season.
Many people we spoke to said the wait was annoying, but not enough to drive them away from the coast. Around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, a long line of out-of-state vehicles could be seen waiting to get into the parking lot.
“This is the first year we’ve had to wait in line,” said Allyson Stazinksi of Boston. “Yesterday it was probably about a half-hour.”
Stazinksi said she’s on vacation this week but plans to use her sticker to gain access to the beach for the rest of the season.
Town Administrator Shawn Brown said last year, they sold 2,208 resident seasonal stickers, 2,751 non-resident seasonal stickers, and 65,509 day passes.
This year, the town sold 941 more resident seasonal stickers (3,149) and 2,239 more non-resident seasonal stickers (4,990) but the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped the sale of day passes, according to Brown.
New this year, the town has also created two lines: one for residents and one for non-residents.
“It’s harder because we’re not ‘Middletown local’,” said Isabelle Pacheco of Portland. “We live on Aquidneck Island, but we don’t get the same opportunity to go to this beach as quickly as people in Middletown.”
Pacheco was heading to the beach with her friend, Logan Pitt, who said they’ve come to the beach almost every day and the longest wait time was about 45 minutes.
“Sometimes, I just don’t wait, because it might not be worth it,” Pitt said.
The parking lot capacity at Second Beach and other state beaches has been reduced in an effort to limit crowds. Brown said they calculate the number of spaces based on an estimate of the amount of beach that’s available and what’s required for social distancing.
The tide is the biggest factor, according to Brown, and they take into account about 20% for foot traffic. Once they identify the number of available spaces, they divide them equally between residents and non-residents.
“They pretty much told us that the pass didn’t ensure your entry, so we knew that there would be a line some days,” Newport resident Trevor Cassese said.
Cassese said he’s been coming to Second Beach his whole life and the waves are what keep him coming back. He said they had to wait in line for about 45 minutes.
“Some points it goes fast, but there are some times you got to wait a pretty long time,” he added.
Residents pay $70 for a season sticker and non-residents pay $140 for a season sticker.
“The $140 is a bit steep, but if you rationalize coming over an entire summer, coming about once a week, go six to eight times, it’s worthwhile,” said Nicolette Bernardi of Cumberland.
Denee Santos of Middletown said long lines are happening at other beaches as well.
“Easton’s Beach too, I think they’re closed by 9:30 as well, for the parking lot,” she said.
According to the town’s website, there is no cap to seasonal stickers sold. People we spoke with say despite the long line, if you get to the beach early and visit often, the season pass is worth it.
DEM spokesperson Mike Healey advises checking the RI State Parks website to find out if there’s parking available before heading to the beach.