New Daily Parking Fees at Misquamicut State Beach

Published on Wednesday, July 07, 2021

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that daily parking fees at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly have changed. The new rates are as follows:

- The new daily parking rate for non-residents is $20 on weekdays and $30 on weekends & holidays.

- The daily parking rate for RI residents is $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays.

The new daily fees for cash and credit transactions at the Misquamicut State Beach entry booth are now in effect. New fees for the purchase of daily flex passes will be reflected when the online parking system goes through a scheduled maintenance update this month.

"Our state parks and beaches are some of Rhode Island's most treasured places, providing countless families with opportunities to enjoy being outside," said Jason McNamee, PhD, Deputy Director of DEM's Bureau of Natural Resources. "The modest increase in beach fees at Misquamicut limit the burden on Rhode Island taxpayers by ensuring that beach patrons – including the 88 percent of out-of-state residents who visit Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly each year – contribute their fair share toward beach operations."

DEM held a public hearing on the proposed new fees in April; following the rulemaking process, the new fees were approved by the legislature and included in the FY 2022 budget. The additional funds raised from the new fees will be reinvested in DEM's Division of Parks and Recreation and will also increase the amount of revenue provided to the Town of Westerly, which is the host community. Under RI law, a municipality that has a state beach within its jurisdiction receives 27 percent of the daily beach parking fees annually. Misquamicut State Beach has approximately 2,700 parking spots. Local officials and local businesses support the increased parking fees because the rates previously charged at the Misquamicut lot were out of sync with the rates charged by the Town and private parking lots.

Misquamicut State Beach is the state's largest and most popular beach. This is also a facility that has had unique challenges, including substantial out-of-state attendance (close to 88% of guests are from out-of-state) and excessive trash problems (necessitating the addition of dumpsters and recycling containers at every other beach entry point and more seasonal employees for trash pickup).

For the past two seasons we have tested a new program at Misquamicut State Beach, the state's biggest and most popular beach, in collaboration with the Town of Westerly to address the problem of excessive trash left on the beach and in the parking lot. During the summer, DEM has positioned dumpsters and recycling containers at every other beach entry point. Misquamicut visitors – a majority of whom are from out-of-state – had access to these dumpsters to deposit trash and recyclables as they exited the beach and returned to their vehicles. DEM added four seasonal employees at Misquamicut to monitor the containers and collect litter and trash from the parking area and beach.

"While nobody likes an increase in parking fees, the time has definitely come. The prices of beach parking at the state beach have been stagnant for over a decade and do not produce enough income to cover the rising costs of staff, lifeguards, and now trash removal at the beach," said Caswell Cooke Jr., Westerly Town Councilor and Executive Director of the Misquamicut Business Association. "For extra services, an extra fee is required. It also puts the area businesses on more of a level playing field with the state beach. We hope people will come and enjoy the beauty that the beaches have to offer and keep our natural resources in pristine condition by disposing of their trash properly."

Except for the new rates at Misquamicut State Beach, Rhode Island uses a fee schedule that dates to 2002 for state beach parking fees. These current rates are significantly lower than the parking fees charged at most other public beaches in the state.

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