Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Screenshot via Narragansett Bay Estuary Program

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (NBEP) recently completed an interactive, online narrative that pioneers the use of cell phone data to look at tourism and recreation on our coasts from the perspective of environmental management.

Here are some key points from the online narrative that used anonymized cell phone data to track visits to the Narragansett Bay coast:

  • In summer 2019, 2.5 million people visited the shores through public access. Visitors came from all 50 states.
  • Are beaches our biggest attraction? Public beaches reeled in half a million visits in summer 2019, but it turns out that the vast majority of visits were to other public sites such as marinas, fishing sites, and coastal parks and trails.
  • Where do folks go? One-third of all visits were to public sites in the upper bay—where pollution is greatest.
  • What’s the take-away? We could substantially boost tourism and recreation by continuing to address pollution issues in those areas and prioritizing public access, particularly in under-resourced communities.
  • Privacy concerns? Cell phone data was anonymized and aggregated prior to purchase, meaning that researchers work with simple counts and cannot see individual phones, location history, or personal information.

With permission and access from NBEP, What’s Up Newp shares the full report below.

If you have trouble seeing this on the device you’re on, try viewing full screen or mobile & tablet view.

A few more notes from NBEP;

Background supporting material for the causes of the pollution from NBEP recent State of the Bay report is here. The region has made huge strides to clean up Narragansett Bay. Investments in wastewater treatment have reduced nutrient pollution. Seafloor habitats are recovering. Bacterial pollution is down, and shellfish harvesting has been expanded. Pollution is still a problem in some areas, however—particularly in the upper bay.  Continuing work to green our communities is key—greening communities means cleaner water, better storm and flooding protections, and safer outdoor spaces that benefit public health.

Narragansett Bay Estuary Program ( is a stakeholder-led nonprofit conservation organization working to catalyze scientific inquiry and collective action in the Narragansett Bay region. We envision clean water and habitat that sustain all who live, work, and play in the tri-state region. NBEP is currently heading up Vision2032 (, an open coalition of partners across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut that is working to develop the next 10-year regional plan to tackle different facets of work on water, wildlife and habitat, quality of life, and our partnership’s ability to be a force for change.