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Once again, an attempt is being lobbied to limit and restrict public access rights along the Rhode Island shoreline.
By Toby Lapinski  |  July 13, 2020

It seems that at least once per summer, a public access issue raises its head. From piping plovers to beachfront development, we as beachgoers are constantly confirmed with new attempts to limit our constitutional rights to access the shoreline. And I’m not just being funny there, most if not all of our coastal states have access to the shoreline written into the state constitutions.

A few weeks back I received notice of a sign that was placed on the east side parking lot at the Weekapaug Breachway prohibiting access to the shoreline. From what I was told, a security guard was also posted up to prevent access to the breachway. Since the time of this notice, however, the situation has been rectified and access restored.

Shortly thereafter, I received notice of an action being taken just down the road where Spray Rock Road branches off to Ninigret Avenue (also known as the access road to the west side of Quonochontaug Breachway.) At the entrance to the beach parking lots there is a line of several public parking spaces which allow beachgoers access to the Weekapaug Fire District Beach by way of a public right of way over the dune. I know many anglers park here and walk the beach to fish Quonny, as well as many anglers and beachers who simply use it to access the beach right in front of the access point. This area is town-managed and no restrictions to parking or duration currently exist. However, an individual was issued a parking ticket for parking here (the full details of which I do not have but it is my understanding that the ticket has since been revoked.)

The parking spots in question which may be subject to a parking time limit are managed by the town of Westerly.

But it didn’t just stop there, on July 20 at the Westerly Town Council meeting there is an agenda item to implement a parking time limit for this spot (I was told either 2 or 3 hours), and this is where your assistance is needed. We as anglers, beachgoers and supporters of public access need to flood the emails of the Town Council and let them know that we object to any restriction to the parking at this (and any) public access points along the Rhode Island coast. The email addresses are below, just let them know that you are a fisherman who uses the public right of ways along the Rhode Island coast and you object to any restrictions being implemented. Specify that you want your email to be included as part of the citizen’s comment portion of the July 20, 2020 meeting, specifically the hearing on the proposed ordinance that would establish a parking time limit at the parking spots between Spray Rock Road and Ninigret Avenue

Town Clerk Donna Giordano dgiordano@westerlyri.gov

Deputy Town Clerk Mary Leblanc mleblanc@westerlyri.gov