NARRAGANSETT – A special legislative committee formed to study coastal access rights in Rhode Island has announced the appointment of its membership. The list includes elected officials, resident representatives, state leadership, real estate representatives and more. 

“There have been disagreements about where the public’s access ends and private property begins for centuries,” said Representative Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), a sponsor of the legislation that approved the group. “While there have been efforts to clarify the public’s rights over the years, rising sea levels and erosion are changing the coast, and creating more conflicts along the way. There are many questions about how Rhode Island is supposed to determine and protect access rights, and we need to identify some clearer answers. I very much look forward to the interesting and important work of this commission.”

Narragansett, which has numerous public rights of way to access the shoreline that are backed by state legislation, has recently wrestled with the issue in a Point Judith neighborhood and popular destination for local water recreation and activities such as surfing and fishing. Property owners on Louise, Pilgrim and Conant Avenues, where these rights of way guarantee public access to the water, argued against establishing additional parking opportunities in the area, leading shoreline access activists to ask if a right of way was truly public if minimal parking was offered. Ultimately, the Narragansett Town Council approved additional parking in the neighborhood, and property owners recently countered this decision by suing the town. 

The commission was formed after legislation establishing the body was approved by the Rhode Island House of Representatives in June. 

The group will include Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown), Rep. Blake A. Filippi (R-Dist. 36, New Shoreham, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly); Michael Rubin, who will serve as a resident of a coastal community; Coastal Resources Management Council Executive Director Jeffrey Willis; David Splaine, representing the Rhode Island Realtors Association; Julia Wyman, representing the Marine Affairs Institute and Rhode Island Sea Grant legal program at Roger Williams University; Dennis Nixon of the Marine Affairs Department at University of Rhode Island; Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone; land use attorney Mark P. McKenney; Mark Boyer of the Rhode Island Society of Professional Land Surveyors; retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Francis X. Flaherty and a representative of the Attorney General’s Office with experience in shoreline access issues, to be appointed by the attorney general, according to a press release from the state. 

An organizational meeting is planned for Thursday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m. at the State House. 

Rhode Islanders’ right to access the shoreline is outlined in the state’s constitution dating back to 1843, yet the debate between beachfront property owners and the general public was waged for years. A 1982 state Supreme Court case established the boundary of the public’s shore access at the mean high tide line, defined as the average of high tides over an 18.6-year cycle, which continually changes with the shifting sands of the coast. The Supreme Court’s decision has led to much conflict because it is nearly impossible for anyone walking along the shore to know where that shifting line is. In 1986, the voters of Rhode Island overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the state constitution strengthening the description of the privileges to the shore enjoyed by Rhode Islanders.

The first meeting of the new shoreline access commission is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. at the State House.

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(5) comments


Guys. Pretend that I mattered.

It would still be me telling you that our habitat is about as good as it's going to be, with luck, for a couple decades.

Funny. Monday just felt like Sunday.



While I understand the littoral (and riparian) legal rights issue quite a bit, there are always bad apples in the public barrel who just make everyone in their public user group look bad.

Take, for instance, the surfers who have used Louise, Conant, and Pilgrim Avenues for around 60 years. They'd saturate any available parking, pull up next to an abutter's property, open the door near the bushes, and defecate in the foliage; all in their rush to go surfing. In other areas, the low-lifes in the general population can't appreciate why some had bothered to give them that right. I live near a river that the liberal newspaper thought it a GREAT idea to tell the world about this beautiful location on the river, and since then, it has seen vandalism, graffiti, campfires during times of high fire hazard , dirty diapers, hypodermic needles, condoms, beer cans, and beer bottles smashed on rocks that children used to walk on before the mad rush of entitled snowflakes entered the scene.

These people don't deserve free rein on the beach; they belong on a leash or in a cage. The bottom line is, where the heck are all these goody-two-shoes legislators when it comes time to clean up the mess?


Craig L


Perhaps a good solution to this instead of limiting access is to make trash pickup free in these areas. (free is always better) As for the parking I think the town should purchase more land to make parking garages and subsidize it for low income persons. If the the town can afford that fancy new library then I don't see how they can't afford this. It wouldn't be right at all to spend money on book people and not on surfers. I think we should start a new face-book page to let everyone know how important this is. We can solve all of these issues together. As long as the naysaying people keep working hard at their "jobs" and not going to town meetings (they always complain about taxes and irrelevant things).

At the end of the day we are moving in the right direction. No more plastic straws or bags on the beach so all is well in my book. namaste



Your enthusiasm is commendable, however, this argument is similar to the "Rosie O'Donnell being fat because of spoons, so we must get rid of spoons" argument. Banning straws and bags does little for the childish mentality that, somehow, Mommy and Daddy, or someone, will always be there to pick up their mess. Then too is the problem that much of the refuse is still coming from cruise lines and foreign shipping concerns. The bottom line is that an offshore breeze lasting several days will just amount to depositing the plastic on someone else beach or put it into a holding pattern like the North Pacific Gyre. In the end, individuals must realize how much we all have in common than not, and take an inventory of their personal integrity, which these day is seriously waning.

To address your first suggestion, the problem is that far too many people are too disconnected to feel like being responsible for their own behavior and that it is worth their time. Over 70 years, I've watched Narragansett go from quaint farmland with a seasonal tourist industry ........... to a seasonally vacillating college town/tourist town with no farm land left at all. It's difficult for people to feel like they have their feet in the soil, when real estate development and administrative apathy leave everyone searching for some local sense of purpose, but then I digress.

If people felt like they were still a part of the "community", and had the ambition to clean up after themselves, no one would mind opening up the rights-of-way. The problem is that they don't and I can see WHY these ROWs are being intentionally hidden.


It's a fair fight, for sure. Beleaguered members of what's left of the middle classes fighting the interests of the Rhode Island Shuffle. Their lawyers. Their accountants. Their politicians.

For the Shufflers? Streamlining.

For Mom and Pop? War of Attrition (and maybe, a modicum of community, what's left of it, and a couple of slices of pizza.)[innocent][yawn][angry][offtopic]

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