Increased fines kept most beachgoers from parking illegally, but not all

South County
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WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The combination of the oppressive heat and reduced parking capacity at two of the state’s beaches led to dozens of parking tickets over the weekend.

Gov. Gina Raimondo slashed the parking capacity at Scarborough and Misquamicut state beaches by 75% last week. Her decision, which she said she did not make lightly, came after a weekend of overcrowded beaches and parking lots.

The new parking restrictions, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), led to a spike in illegal parking throughout neighborhoods in Narragansett, South Kingstown, Charlestown and Westerly.

The uptick in illegal parking prompted three of those communities to either double their parking fines in high-traffic beach areas or designate “tow away zones” ahead of the busy weekend.

Overall, the DEM said that by upping fines and expanding towing areas, they saw much smaller crowds at the beaches.

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey tells Eyewitness News that in total, officers issued 145 parking tickets this past weekend, which is 45 less than they issued the weekend before.

Lacey attributes the lower number of parking tickets issued to the town’s decision to double the fines. He said the town collected approximately $17,000 in fines this past weekend.

“It’s more of a deterrent,” he said. “We are not doing it to make money as a revenue stream by any means whatsoever.”

The situation was much different in Narragansett, however. The Narragansett Police Department reports that officers issued 527 parking tickets over the weekend, which is 120 more than the number issued during the Fourth of July weekend.

Councilman Jesse Pugh tells Eyewitness News the town recently converted all of its “no parking zones” to “tow away zones,” which carry a larger fine.

“It’s going from $35 to $75 to try to deter people from parking there, but there is definitely still [illegal] parking and people willing to pay that fine,” Pugh said.

South Kingstown also increased its illegal parking fines from $25 to $150 in the areas surrounding East Matunuck State Beach last week.

Check the parking capacity at RI’s state beaches »

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