South County

RI DEM set to unveil campground price hikes

CHARLESTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) -- As state officials prepare to unveil their plan to raise state campground fees, campers are sounding off about the impact this will have in Rhode Island.

One of the reasons the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said the fees are still cheap since they haven't raised them since 2002.

In Governor Gina Raimondo's budget proposal, she asked for an increase in campground and beach parking fees to raise $1.5 million. Raimondo said the money will be invested in maintaining the states parks and beaches.

Charlotte Madden, a Connecticut resident and regular camper at Burlingame Campground, said she's worried about the price hike.

"[Burlingame] is like the last place you can go that's relatively cheap," Madden said. "Once it becomes competitive with everywhere else, what's the point? You can go anywhere."

After public outcry, the beach fee increase was dropped last year but the state still hopes to increase the fees at campsites. The rate will be dependent on the location and hook-ups of each site.

"That's disappointing," Madden said as she readied her campsite for her family.

Madden's opinion is matched by at least 14 other campers. The DEM held four listening sessions across the state and also allowed the public to also express their concerns by writing to them.

A spokesperson for the DEM says 16 people wrote in about the price hikes. One write-in spoke positively about the increase, one discussed golf course fees and 14 spoke against the increase.

The public can still weigh in until 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Eyewitness News reached out to the state to discuss the pending deadline and was told no one was available for an interview, but in a January episode of Newsmakers, Raimondo discussed the proposal and how it will benefit the state.

"Anyone who's been to beaches and parks know we can do a better job maintaining our bathrooms, a better job collecting trash, a better job maintaining the parks and the docks and so that's what we're looking at doing," she said.

Once the deadline has ended, the DEM said they will unveil their final plan for the fee increase.

Until then, they said the increase is an estimate. The DEM also added that any increase will simply put Rhode Island's fees in the same category as surrounding New England states.


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