Shore matters in RI: limited access to the beach and the right to harvest seaweed

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PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island has nearly 400 miles of shoreline, but only a fraction of that shoreline is accessible to the public.

So when the vast majority of an area is in private hands or subject to local restrictions, it inevitably means some communities are left dry.

In this summer episode of the Rhode Island Report podcast, Globe reporter Brian Amaral reviews a series of ongoing battles over beach access and equity here in the Ocean State.

Amaral explains that shore access issues are such a big issue in Rhode Island that:

  • The right to harvest seaweed is guaranteed by Article 1, Section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution.
  • The General Assembly this year considered legislation that would decriminalize trespassing along a 10-foot strip of Rhode Island’s coastline. And a House Task Force on shore access issues will meet for the first time on Aug. 26.
  • In the affluent suburb of Barrington, the city has several public rights-of-way to the shore, but the streets surrounding many of them do not allow parking, and now some residents object.
  • In capital Providence, the state’s Coastal Resources Management Board recently voted to designate the public street east of Allens Avenue as a public right-of-way, protecting it for public access in perpetuity.
  • In the seaside town of Narragansett, residents have taken legal action to stop the city council from formalizing access to parking on three local roads near a surfing hotspot.
  • In Where is and other coastal communities, tensions are rising and lawsuits are being filed against fire districts that may or may not fight fires but often exercise control over beach access.
  • In Charlestown, resident Scott Keeley was arrested while picking up seaweed along the shoreline. So now, the coastal rights advocate has ordered 1,000 tote bags emblazoned with the word “SEEDA” on one side and Article 1, Section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution on the other.

During the interview, Amaral reveals that despite everything he has written about beaches, he actually prefers the woods.

To learn more, download the latest episode of Rhode Island Report, available at apple podcast, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Google Podcasts, and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player below:


Edward Fitzpatrick can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.

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