NARRAGANSETT – Illegal parking fines more than doubled recently as the Town of Narragansett coordinated with state officials working to address overcrowding and lack of social distancing in Rhode Island’s coastal communities. Last week, Governor Gina Raimondo reduced parking capacity at both Scarborough and Misquamicut State Beaches from 75 percent to 25 percent after finding a lack of compliance on state beaches with safety measures to combat COVID-19. The town has also converted all no parking zones to tow-away zones.
According to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Rhode Island’s state beaches experienced a 79 percent uptick in visitors in June of 2020 (340,000 visitors) compared to June of 2019 (190,000 visitors).
“Among other consequences, this has caused many beachgoers to park illegally in nearby neighborhoods in Narragansett, South Kingstown, Charlestown, and Westerly,” said DEM in a statement, echoing Raimondo in her press briefing last week in which the governor said the crowds in these communities were coming off beaches and going into restaurants and other businesses.
In response, and in coordination with state measures as Rhode Island braced for a heat wave over the past weekend, the town, by emergency order of its town manager James Tierney, raised the fine for illegal parking from $35 to $75. Additionally, Ocean Road from Pilgrim Avenue to Rose Nulman Park was included in the parking regulations change. Narragansett Town Beach opened an hour earlier to mitigate congestion and boasted increased security, staffing parking patrols and enforcement, resulting in over 500 parking tickets being issued throughout the weekend, a much higher figure than most weekends. The Narragansett Town Council unanimously approved the parking changes at its meeting Monday.
“This entire collaborative effort was in response to an uptick in COVID-19 positive test results in the state and this a step to lessen spread in our own community,” said Tierney.
The increased enforcement and parking changes at both the local and state level came as Rhode Island experiences a slight increase in COVID-19 cases. With Rhode Island faring better than most states in terms of containing the novel coronavirus, the efforts were being made to prevent outbreaks at the state’s most popular summer destinations.
South Kingstown enacted an emergency measure late last week increasing the fine for parking in a prohibited beach area to $150. The executive order includes locations along the entire length of Succotash Road, Jerusalem, the State Pier and all roadways adjacent to those mentioned.
Before Narragansett’s fee increase to $75, the $35 fine assessed for parking illegally in the town did little to deter those determined to get to the beaches in Narragansett. Some viewed the fine simply as the cost of attending the town beach.
The Narragansett emergency order will stay in effect until further notice.