Crowds pack area beaches on first day of summer

South County

NARRAGASETT, R.I. (WPRI) — The first day of summer and Father’s Day weekend brought crowds to Rhode Island beaches, despite restrictions and concerns about the coronavirus.

Saturday morning beach traffic was backed up for miles on Route 1 heading toward Narragansett. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said many state beaches were at capacity before noon.

Those at Scarborough State Beach were met with social distancing guidelines, but with so many trying to get the perfect spot on the sand, it left some concerned.

“What the purpose of putting a mask on, there is no social distance. As you can see the beach is totally crowded,” Lori Zorabedian said.

DEM is requiring beach goers stay six feet apart from others and wear masks in high use areas, such as bathrooms and pavilions.

“I feel like there is not social distancing, no six feet apart,” Zorabedian said.

Others said they felt safe with the precautions.

“Seems like they are keeping their distance. You don’t have to have a mask but everyone stays away,” Westerly resident Steve Shaw said.

DEM reduced the number of parking spots in an attempt to limit overcrowding at state beaches. Despite that, spokesperson Mike Healey said many cars dropped off multiple people near the parking lots, contributing to the large crowds.

Healey said there were also not enough people wearing masks in high use areas, like bathrooms and pavillions, as several state beaches.

Now, DEM will be regrouping with health officials this week to talk about ways to increase messaging on the social distancing and mask wearing guidelines.

Beach attendants will be collecting parking fees until 6 p.m. daily. The DEM is encouraging people to purchase beach passes online in advance to help alleviate congestion.

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