NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — The 31st Governor’s Bay Day is more than a “free” day at the state’s beaches.
The state tradition first started under Governor Edward DiPrete, according to Jennifer Ogren, associate administrator of Rhode Island State Parks.
“Governor Edward DiPrete wanted to showcase the beauty and value of Narragansett Bay. He also wanted to bring attention to how vulnerable it (Narragansett Bay) is,” Ogren said.
On June 23, 1989 a Greek tanker “World Prodigy” ran aground at Brenton Reef, located in Narragansett Bay.
Leading to the oil spill which released 290,000 gallons of number 2 fuel oil, that is according to NOAA.
Ogren says we all should reflect on the importance of keeping our waterways clean for recreational and economic use.
“We are individually responsible for these beautiful natural resources. We have to take care and protect them, and show them the respect that they deserve. Then pass them on to the next generation,” Ogren said.
She said everyone can begin by doing simple things, including carrying out your trash and not littering on the beach.
On hand for Sunday’s celebration was Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo.
Raimondo told Eyewitness News the beaches are a large part of our economy.
“Tourism is an important part of our economy in Rhode Island. Last summer we had our best summer ever in terms of tourism. Things like this give us a chance to show off the great beaches of the Ocean State,” Raimondo said.
Raimondo reflected on how far we have come to clean up Narragansett Bay.
“We are opening up areas to shellfishing that have been closed for 50-years. As a Rhode Islander, as someone who grew up quahogging in Narragansett Bay. And swimming on this very beach (Roger Wheeler State Beach). For me it’s a point of pride,” Raimondo said.
Despite this, Raimondo acknowledges there is room for improvement.
“We need to continue investing in stormwater. I have done a lot of that since I have been governor, but, there is much more to do to treat the stormwater properly. To keep the bacteria levels down,” she said.
“We are continuing to invest, preserving the dunes and making sure we maintain our beaches so they don’t get too eroded,” she added.
Raimondo, along with her family, spent the day at the beach, talking to beachgoers and judging a sandcastle contest.
Warwick resident John Aiello, along with his two children, have attending Governor’s Bay Day since 2013.
“They have the fish (an exhibit of local fish from Narragansett Bay), kids games, face painting, and the sandcastle contest,” Aiello said.
Avid beachgoers, the Aiello family enjoyed the activities offered at Governor’s Bay Day.
As for Ogren, her biggest take away is to preserve the beauty of Rhode Island’s beaches.
“Taking care of what you bring in, make sure you bring it out. It’s very important you bring containers that you can put everything in. That little step really makes a huge difference at the end of the day,” Ogren said.
Governor’s Bay Day granted free admission to state beaches.
Annually 9 million people visit Rhode Island’s State Parks, supporting close to 4,000 jobs.
According to the Governor’s Office, that translates to $315 million into the local economy and $40 million in state and local taxes.