Rhode Island officials are asking visitors from Connecticut and Massachusetts to hold off on visiting their beaches this weekend as the state tries to get a handle on large crowds and protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
With brutally hot weather expected this weekend, Rhode Island state officials have reduced parking capacity at the Misquamicut and Scarborough state beaches would be reduced to 25% from 75%. Misquamicut is known to attract large amounts of out-of-staters, particularly from Connecticut, according to an economic impact study done by the University of Rhode Island in 2016. The same study found that overall almost half of visitors to Rhode Island beaches come from out of the state.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said in June they saw a 79% increase in visitors to their beaches from the same time last year, and that few beachgoers are wearing masks. By reducing parking capacity and asking out-of-state visitors to reconsider a trip, state officials hope to keep the crowds to a more reasonable size.
"As we've seen on recent weekends, crowds at the beaches have been too large and tightly packed, especially at high tide. At the same time, we recognize that fighting COVID by limiting parking strains the resources of the local beach communities that are our partners," Dean Hoxsie, Chief of DEM's Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) said.
Environmental Police officers will be at parking lot entries to keep track of visitors and close lots when they reach capacity. Rhode Island State Police troopers will be out to keep people from parking illegally on the streets near the beaches.