Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

 235 Promenade Street | Providence, RI 02908 | 401.222.4700 | www.dem.ri.gov | @RhodeIslandDEM





Friday, May 22, 2020                                             





Visitors must continue to abide by rules regarding social distancing, group size to safely enjoy the outdoors.


PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that two saltwater beaches will be open to visitors with new restrictions in place beginning on Memorial Day. Getting outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature are great ways to relieve stress and important to public health. DEM’s Division of Parks and Recreation recognizes the value of spending time in nature and is committed to ensuring beach visitors enjoy safe and memorable experiences at state beaches. 


“DEM is delighted to welcome visitors back to our world-class state beaches,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Heading out with family to watch the waves roll in at East Matunuck or take a walk along the water’s edge at Scarborough is a healthy way to stay active and reduce stress while practicing physical distancing. As we’re dealing with the public health emergency, we’re also asking beach visitors to take additional steps to protect themselves, their families, and the people around them so everyone can safely enjoy the outdoors.” 


On Monday, May 25, parking lots at East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown and Scarborough North State Beach in Narragansett will be open daily. DEM will have staff present to welcome and handle visitors, but no lifeguards and no swimming. Concessions, along with beach pavilions and their restrooms and showers, will be closed. Portajohns will be available in the parking lots. The parking lots at East Matunuck and Scarborough North will be open, and parking will be free. However, the number of parking spots will be reduced, and parking gates may need to be closed at times depending on beach capacity. All patrons must practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet of distance between themselves and their families and others, including between groups on the beach. Masks should be worn in the public/high use areas.


“Memorial Day is a holiday that is traditionally spent with family, and in order to reduce coronavirus, we still encourage people to stay local and with small groups,” Director Coit said. “While I am happy that two state beaches will be open to the public, it is important for Rhode Islanders to know that the lots may fill quickly. People should expect that they may encounter traffic backups and closed lots. Please be patient and plan for delays. We want everyone to enjoy a safe holiday, and a prepare for a different summer, even at the beach.”


All state parks are open, with some restrictions in place. Swimming areas at state parks remain closed to swimming until further notice.


State Beaches to Open in Early June

DEM is aiming to open all state beaches in early June. Lifeguards will be on duty and concessions, beach pavilions and restrooms will be open, although portajohns may be needed at some locations.  Parking charges will be in effect and the number of parking spots will be reduced at some locations.


Online beach pass sales will launch next week at www.riparks.com, and individuals will be able to purchase resident, non-resident and senior season beach passes. Season beach passes may also be purchased in person at all state beach locations on weekdays and on weekends at the Scarborough overflow lot. New this year, daily flex passes will be available for purchase online at www.riparks.com by mid-June.


Any Rhode Islander who already holds a 2019 disability beach pass may continue to use it for entry into state beach parking lots for the 2020 season. Those who have misplaced their 2019 pass or who are eligible for a new free pass may contact the RI State Parks Headquarters at 667-6200 for instructions on how to obtain their pass.


Season passes will no longer require a physical pass to be placed on vehicle windshields as passes will now be tied to an individual’s license plate. Beach attendants will use hand-held devices to scan the front license plate for information and anyone who buys their pass online or in advance of heading to the beach will be able to use newly installed express lanes for quick entry.


DEM encourages 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). Online credit card purchases are charged a 6% transaction charge; the total for a $30 RI resident season pass purchased online is $31.80.


DEM continues to accept applications for qualified lifeguards for state beach facilities. Entry level and senior lifeguard positions are still available at numerous locations throughout the state. All lifeguard positions require certification and special training in first aid, CPR, and senior lifesaving.


While enjoying outdoor spaces, residents must continue to follow the CDC and RI Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread COVID-19:


·         If you’re not feeling well, stay home! Signs and symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

·         Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others, even when outdoors.

·         For the safety of all visitors, please have a face covering with you and wear it in public areas and if you are within 6 feet of another person who is outside your household. The only exceptions from these rules are for people with disabilities, anyone whose health would be in jeopardy because of wearing a face covering or any children under 2 years old.

·         Avoid close contact with others outside your household, such as shaking hands, hugging, or high-fives.

·         Bring and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

·         Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.


DEM understands that this is a unique season and the beach experience will be different.  Whether in the sand or the waves, beachgoers will be required to follow social distancing guidelines and remain at least six feet from others outside their household. When you follow these guidelines, you are doing your part to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. 


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.


DEM advises everyone to follow guidance about COVID-19 from Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Department of Health. More information about COVID-19 and Rhode Island’s response can be found here:



For outdoor recreation updates, visit http://riparks.com/covid19


For updates on For information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.