Memorial Day Weekend is the official kick-off of the summer beach season, and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is encouraging beachgoers to buy their state beach parking pass well in advance of their visit. Beach passes can be purchased by visiting the DEM website.
All state beaches, except for Scarborough South State Beach, will be open daily starting Saturday, May 27, through Labor Day. Once purchased, season passes do not go into immediate effect. It takes up to 24 hours during the summer months for the buyer’s residency status and age to be verified to charge the correct fee and for the pass to be validated. DEM urges beachgoers to plan ahead and buy their passes earlier in the week if they’re going to the beach on the weekend. Individuals may purchase resident, non-resident, or senior season beach passes online, as well as a Pay As You Go Pass (formerly called a Daily Flex Pass), which allows you to save your payment method in our online system. DEM changed the name of this pass to avoid confusion in response to customer feedback. As has been the case for several years, Scarborough South will not officially open until Saturday, June 17; lifeguards, beach staff, concessions, and restrooms will be available at that time.
“The First Lady and I love beach season and Rhode Island has the best beaches anywhere,” said Governor Dan McKee. “We wish all
Rhode Islanders and visitors to our beautiful beaches to have a fun, happy, and safe summer!”
“Memorial Day weekend is the on-switch for the summer and DEM invites Rhode Islanders to get out and enjoy their state parks and beaches over the coming months,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “From widening the entrance at East Matunuck State Beach to get cars off the road and into the parking lot faster to pavilion concessions that offer everything from boogie boards to chicken fingers to Del’s Lemonade, we want you to unplug and relax at the beach this summer. There’s nothing like summer in Rhode Island and any day at the beach is a good day!”
Scarborough North, Roger Wheeler, Salty Brine, East Matunuck, Charlestown Breachway, East Beach, and Misquamicut state beaches will be open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM on weekdays and 8:30 AM to 6 PM on weekends and holidays, weather permitting. Scarborough South in Narragansett will open daily on June 17 until Aug. 20. After Aug. 20, this beach will be open weekends-only through Sept. 4. Other facilities open daily, weather permitting, beginning on May 27 through Labor Day include the beaches at Lincoln Woods State Park, Goddard Memorial State Park, Pulaski Park, and Fort Adams State Park. Labor Day is the last day of the season that state beaches will be staffed with lifeguards and rangers and after it, restrooms will be closed and winterized for the season.
To help reduce the amount of time beachgoers spend at the entry booths, DEM is encouraging Rhode Islanders to buy season and Pay
As You Go passes online or well in advance of their visit. These passes go on sale online annually in January. Prepaid customers may use the express lanes at beaches for speedier access. Purchasing season or Pay As You Go passes online also will help DEM keep the express lanes open, as there have been past instances when the express lanes could not be used because too many people were paying for parking at the entry gates rather using pre-paid parking passes. Express lanes are available at all state beaches except for East Beach, Charlestown Breachway, and Salty Brine, which are one-lane facilities. Beachgoers can check the near real-time status of state beach parking lots here.
Improvements that added a third lane to the entrance and strengthened stormwater controls at East Matunuck State Beach, financed by state capital funds and money raised by the 2021 green economy bond, were completed in April. DEM anticipates that the new three-lane entryway will ease traffic congestion at this popular beach, which hosted an estimated 170,000 beach goers in each of the past two summers. This project also improved the infrastructure to capture stormwater runoff in the parking lot and infiltrate it in the ground over a period of days to prevent it from reaching the ocean. Additional stormwater improvements at East Matunuck are planned for the fall, after the 2023 beach season.
DEM’s parking vendor, LAZ, uses license plate recognition (LPR) technology at the express lanes whereby a scan is taken of the rear license plates of prepaid customers confirming that the customer has paid to allow for quick entry. Please allow space for the car at the gate space for the reader to recognize the license plate. Driving bumper to bumper will cause the system to fault, requiring an attendant to manually enter the plate, and slow the flow of cars. Season passes no longer require a physical pass to be placed on vehicle windshields as passes are now electronically connected to an individual’s license plate.
The Pay As You Go pass allows beachgoers to save their payment method in our online system. Beachgoers will only be charged the daily rate when they enter a state beach parking lot. The Pay As You Go pass maximizes value and convenience for those who are not frequent beachgoers but would like the opportunity to use the express lanes at larger state beaches that use LPR technology to scan the license plates of prepaid customers’ vehicles and operate entrance gates.
Along with the online option, season beach parking passes may be purchased in person at the Scarborough State Beach overflow lot from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM Monday through Friday. Season passes are not for sale at state beach entrance booths. DEM urges customers purchasing day passes at the entrance booths or customers purchasing a season pass at the overflow lot to have their money and documents ready to show the attendant to allow for these transactions to occur quickly and efficiently. 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 asks customers purchasing a season pass in-person at the overflow lot to have their registration information ready to show the attendant to allow for these transactions to occur quickly and efficiently. Transactions before June 1 may take seven to 10 business days to be confirmed following purchase. Transactions after June 1 until Aug. 11take up to 24 hours to validate. The last day of in-person sales is Friday, Aug. 11.
The daily beach parking fee (now known as a Pay As You Go pass when purchased online) for residents is $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends and holidays and $10 weekday and $15 for weekends and holidays at Misquamicut State Beach. There is no re-entry with the daily beach parking pass or the Pay As You Go pass. You will be charged the daily fee each time you enter a beach lot. The fee for a season pass for residents is $30 and is available for purchase through Labor Day. Non-resident parking is $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends and holidays and $20 weekdays and $30 weekends and holidays at Misquamicut State Beach. A season pass is $60 for non-residents. A 50% discount on daily parking fees and season passes applies for senior citizens 65 years and older. Fees are based solely on the vehicle registration (i.e., license plate) of each vehicle entering beach facilities or purchasing a season beach parking pass. All Rhode Island-registered vehicles will be subject to resident parking rates; non-Rhode Island plates will be subject to non-resident rates. (By law, a “vehicle” is defined as any street-legal equipment, motorized or non-motorized, properly registered for over-the-road travel.)
No-cost disability beach parking passes are available for those who are eligible. Please contact RI State Parks Headquarters at 401-667-6200 for questions on how to obtain this pass and to make an appointment.
Carry-in/Carry-Out Trash Policy
Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. All DEM properties have a carry-in/carry-out trash policy. This policy has been in effect since 1992. We ask all visitors to come prepared to secure their trash in their own containers and dispose of it properly when they return home. This simple measure helps minimize litter, reduces nuisance wildlife issues, and prevents trash and plastics from entering coastal waters. “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 Gray.
The COVID pandemic highlighted the importance of public beaches and parks as gathering places to get outdoors and enjoy swimming, playing, relaxing, and gathering with friends and family. Visitors are reminded to be respectful towards park employees, most of whom are high-school and college-age young people. Seasonal workers act as stewards of RI state parks, beaches, campgrounds, and natural places to ensure they remain safe and clean. Visitors seeking to compliment an employee, make a complaint, or ask a question should contact RI State Parks by reaching out to the regional manager via the contact webpage.
“Our lifeguards, rangers, and other frontline workers have definitely experienced ruder and more aggressive behavior from patrons since the pandemic,” said DEM Public Affairs Officer Mike Healey. “It’s only from a small percentage of the public, but it’s still happening. Things like starting fights over being asked to move your beach chair out of the lifeguard’s path to the water or screaming at the snack bar worker if your order takes a few minutes longer. There’s a level of anger that’s really disconnected from the reality of the situation, and it’s scary for young people to experience it. DEM has zero tolerance for abusive behavior and we will protect our workers.”
DEM continues to accept applications for seasonal positions including qualified lifeguards for state beach facilities. New this season, DEM is offering one-time sign-on and retention bonuses of $500 each, along with higher salaries, to support the hiring of a robust workforce. Entry-level seasonal positions are still available at numerous locations throughout the state. All lifeguard positions require state certification and special training in first aid, CPR, and lifesaving. For a complete list of seasonal employment opportunities and to apply, job seekers may click here.
For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates.