Parking increase takes effect at state beaches

South County
12 on 12: Vaccine 101

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Parking capacity at Rhode Island state beaches increased to 75 percent on Saturday, according to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

Last weekend, parking capacity was only at 50 percent and the nice weather combined with Father’s Day weekend led to lots of traffic and parking lots quickly filling up.

DEM Spokesperson Mike Healey said besides increasing parking, the state rolled out its new live parking updates this weekend in an effort to relieve congestion. Beachgoers can log onto and see in real time if there’s parking available before leaving home.

With more parking available, the DEM is urging people to follow social distancing rules, especially wearing masks in crowded areas like parking lots, pavilions, bathrooms, and concessions.

Healey says it’s difficult to enforce because this time of year is the busiest for environmental police officers, who are typically stationed at parks.

“We can’t have hundred of people congregating in areas without face mask wearing or else we are going to see what’s happening in other states. When the good weather finally comes around we think oh, it’s like the flu or the cold, you aren’t going to get sick in the summer, that’s wrong. COVID is a different thing,” Healey said.

Most beachgoers Saturday at East Matunuck State Beach appeared to be following the rules in high traffic areas. Warwick resident Benjamin Swenor said despite the pandemic, he felt safe on the beach.

“Everyone is kinda keeping a little bit of distance and try to be considerate. If someone is trying to walk by going down here you stand off to the side and try to give a little bit of extra distance, but overall everything feels fine, I feel safe. Not so many people wearing masks always, but overall everybody is at least trying to keep the distance when at the beach,” Swenor said.

Healey said this weekend is the big test before the Fourth of July holiday weekend, which could be the busiest weekend of the year for state beaches.

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