NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — After hours of heated testimony Monday night, the Narragansett Town Council voted to give tribal members free beach access starting this summer.

By a vote of 3-2, about 3,000 Narragansett Indian Tribe members are now eligible to walk on the town beach and get the same seasonal passes as town residents at no cost.

During the town council meeting, tribal members said it’s not fair to charge them and residents said it’s not fair to not charge them if they have to pay $12 per day or $25 for the season.

The idea of free beach access for tribal members was brought up by one member during a February meeting between the town’s coastal access committee and tribe leaders.

The measure that passed only included beach access for free, not parking.

The beach opens for the season on Memorial Day Weekend.

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Other town beaches have their own prices and policies:

Middletown (Second and Third Beaches)

Middletown beach stickers went on sale in April and can be purchased online. Town officials say stickers will also be available every day at the gazebo at the intersection of Sachuest Point and Hanging Rocks roads starting May 28, weather permitting.

Stickers

  • Middletown Resident: $70
  • Middletown Senior (65+) Resident: $65
  • Middletown Resident Motorcycle/Scooter: $30
  • Nonresident: $140
  • Nonresident Senior (65+): $130
  • Nonresident Motorcycle/Scooter: $60

Parking passes

  • Weekdays: $20
  • Weekends & Holidays: $30
  • Motorcycles & Scooters: $15

Parking rates apply only during the beach season, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Parking is also free before 8 a.m. in the Surfer’s End and Third Beach lots, as well as after 6 p.m. until sunset daily in all lots during this period.

Easton’s Beach (Newport)

Daily Parking Fees: (credit or debit only)

Automobile

  • Weekday: $15 per day
  • Weekend/Holiday: $25 per day

Motorcycles & Mopeds

  • Weekday: $5 per day
  • Weekend/Holiday: $10 per day

Bus

  • Weekday: $40 per day
  • Weekend/Holiday: $80 per day

Seasonal Beach Parking Sticker Fees

  • Newport Resident: $50 per season
    • Senior Resident Rate: $30 per season
    • Motorcycles & Mopeds: $10
  • Non-Resident: $100 per season
    • Senior Non-Resident Rate: $60 per season
    • Motorcycles & Mopeds: $20

Data from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) shows preseason sales of state beach passes have been slower this year compared to previous years. Season parking passes for state beaches went on sale in January.

DEM spokesman Michael Healey told 12 News the agency believes things are trending in the right direction, however.

“With the nice weather this past weekend, we sold around 700 passes, which is our biggest weekend so far,” Healey said in an email. “Also, we will be stepping up our sales and marketing efforts between now and Memorial Day weekend, when all state beaches officially open.”

Parking at state beaches no longer requires a physical pass this season. Instead, a vehicle’s license plate will serve as a credential to enter state beach parking lots.

Season passes allow entry into parking lots at all eight of Rhode Island’s state beaches: Charlestown Breachway and East Beach in Charlestown, East Matunuck in South Kingstown, Misquamicut in Westerly, Roger WheelerScarborough North and South, and Salty Brine in Narragansett.

A daily pass allows entry into one beach parking lot for the day, but does not allow beachgoers to visit multiple locations in a single day for the same cost. However, a season pass does allow multiple entries in a single day.

Residents

Season Pass: $30

Daily, Monday–Friday: $6; $10 at Misquamicut

Saturday/Sunday/Holidays: $7; $15 at Misquamicut

Non-Residents

Season Pass: $60

Daily: Monday–Friday $12; $20 at Misquamicut

Saturday/Sunday/Holidays: $14; $30 at Misquamicut

Senior Residents

Season Pass: $15

Daily: Monday–Friday $3

Saturday/Sunday/Holidays: $3.50

Senior Non-Residents

Season Pass: $30

Daily: Monday–Friday $6

Saturday/Sunday/Holidays: $7

Only patrons who park at the beach are charged a fee.