The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is continuing to urge residents from Connecticut and Massachusetts not to visit the state’s beaches following a large uptick in visitors for the month of June during the pandemic.
Rhode Island’s eight beaches saw a 79% year-over-year increase in visitors in June, from 190,000 visitors to 340,000 visitors, DEM said in a Thursday press release.
The spike in visitors came despite the 75% capacity limit on parking at Misquamicut and Scarborough beaches to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, the department said.
Earlier this month, Gov. Gina Raimondo slashed those capacity limits to 25% at the two beaches to further cut down on crowding.
“When you run beaches and you’re trying to ensure room for physical distancing, high tide is the enemy. The higher the water comes up, the less room there is on the sand and the more people must bunch up. Coupled with the very minimal mask wearing we had been seeing when our beaches were at 75% capacity, that’s a bad combination,” DEM spokesman Michael Healey said in an email to CNN.
According to a 2017 University of Rhode Island report on the economic impact of the state’s parks, 47% of visitors to Rhode Island’s beaches came from out of state in 2016. At Misquamicut Beach, 77% of visitors come from out of state, the majority of whom were from Connecticut, the report said.
“By keeping crowds down and allowing for physical distancing on the sand, we are trying to protect public health and safety – in Rhode Island and other states," DEM Director Janet Coit said in the release. "We also are trying to help our beach communities alleviate the heavy traffic that they have been experiencing this summer."
More context: While DEM cannot deny access to parks and beaches based on residency, they do charge out of state visitors twice the cost for daily and seasonal parking passes, Healey added.
According to the state’s travel restrictions page, residents from Connecticut and Massachusetts are not required to self-quarantine when they enter Rhode Island.