DEM: Rhode Islanders, visitors flocked to State Beaches and Parks over Memorial Day Weekend

East Matunuck State Beach, South Kingstown

With a gorgeous stretch of weather over Memorial Day Weekend, thousands of Rhode Islanders and visitors enjoyed the sandy shorelines at Scarborough State Beach, fished the trout-stocked waters of Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods, and observed a somber display of Boots on the Ground for Heroes at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. As the traditional start of the summer outdoor recreation season, Memorial Day weekend set the stage for a successful beach and park season.

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is pleased to report that to date, it has sold 2,300 season beach passes online or in advance. This number includes 1,100 season passes bought by beachgoers over the weekend. DEM announced its online purchasing option May 9.

“This is very encouraging because our online option is one way we’re working to make our world-class beach facilities more accessible,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “By buying online ahead of time at www.riparks.com, beachgoers can spend more time on the beach – instead of waiting in line at the entrance booth.”

New this year, Salty’s Burgers and Seafood is operating concession stands at Scarborough, Roger Wheeler, Salty Brine, East Matunuck, and Misquamicut state beaches. Salty’s menu breakfast items, burgers, seafood, wraps, and salads made with locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Salty’s also sells a variety of retail services and sundry items at State beaches, such as beach chair and umbrella rentals at Scarborough North, Roger Wheeler, and Misquamicut.

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In tandem with Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s initiative to invest in and celebrate the state park system, DEM is working to improve trash and recycling services at state beaches and reduce litter in parks, beaches, and parking areas this summer. More than 1 million patrons visit state beaches between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year, and the sheer volume of customers during peak season inevitably strains services and creates challenges related to trash management. DEM rangers clean up trash on beaches and in the parking lots throughout the day; after hours, DEM beach-cleaning contractors send out crews to pick trash. By the next morning, contractors send other crews out combing the beaches and parking lots along with tractor rakes cleaning up the remaining litter and seaweed and smoothing the sand for the new day.

Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. Consistent with this ethic, DEM will continue the carry-in/carry-out trash policy that has been in effect since 1992. Using announcements, social media, signage, and advertising, the Department aims to raise public awareness of the positive values of bringing waste-free lunches and reusable meal and drink containers to the beach and the negative impacts of ugly and unsanitary trash on shorelines.

“The carry-in/carry-out policy is a best practice across the country because it promotes conservation, fosters a sense of stewardship, and leads to better visitor experiences,” said Director Coit.

Rhode Island’s natural and public assets – including eight saltwater beaches, 8,200 acres of parkland, 1,000 campsites, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 200 fishing spots, and 25 parks and nature preserves – are magnets, attracting more than 9 million Rhode Islanders and tourists a year. They’re also an engine that adds an estimated $315 million to the economy, generating nearly $40 million in state and local taxes and supporting nearly 4,000 jobs a year.

Among the events planned in Rhode Island State Parks next month include the Newport 10-Mile Road Race starting and ending at Fort Adams, Sunday, June 2; the Youth Sailing Challenge Friday, June 7, to Sunday, June 9, also at Fort Adams (visit Sail Newport for more details); and – heads-up, knitters! – World Wide Knit Day, Saturday, June 8, 11 AM to 2 PM at Beavertail State Park, Jamestown. For more information, visit http://www.riparks.com/.Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.

DEM is encouraging beachgoers to “Beach More, Wait Less” by buying season parking passes online before going to the beach this summer ($30 for Rhode islanders, $60 for nonresidents, 50% discount for senior citizens 65 and older). For online purchases, the season pass will be mailed to the address provided when the pass was purchased and must be affixed to the outside of the windshield of the vehicle it was registered to. Customers who have bought passes but not received them in the mail may show parking lot attendants their purchase confirmation email for entry; this confirmation can be on your phone and shown to booth attendants at entry, but please have paper back-up for any service or phone issues. Visit http://www.riparks.com/ and buy your season pass today!