‘It’s a huge disappointment,’ councilman says as only two RI beaches selected to open Memorial Day

WESTERLY, R.I. (WLNE) – Governor Gina Raimondo announced Monday two state beaches will open for Memorial Day under restrictions.

East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown and Scarborough State Beach in Narragansett will open for the holiday with limited free parking, no public restrooms, no concessions, and no lifeguards.

“We want to keep it controlled at the beginning so that we can get a sense of how people are doing with the physical distancing,” said Mike Healey from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

But some wish their beach was on the list.

“I think it’s a huge disappointment for us that we’re not going to be able to open Memorial Day weekend.”

Caswell Cooke is a town councilor and the executive director of the Misquamicut Business Association. Cooke said, with the state beach parking lot closed this weekend, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“So, if it’s nice this weekend and thousands of people come down and that lot is closed, all the rest of the lots and the town lots are going to feel that effect and have to handle all that traffic.”

Misquamicut State Beach has 2,800 parking spaces and is located in the middle of 40 businesses.

“The whole Misquamicut Beach situation is going to be a big cluster this weekend if those parking lots are chained. The fact that they are just chaining up this huge parking lot in the middle of our business district is going to have an immediate negative impact on the rest of us,” said Cooke, fearing private lots with skyrocketing prices and traffic backed up for miles.

Cooke is now calling on the state to reopen the lot.

“I’m calling on the governor to open Misquamicut’s lot, to post signs about social distancing, and to let people police themselves because I don’t know how else we can handle it down here.”

Mike Healey said the DEM is working with the MBA to come up with a solution. Healey said because the beach if the biggest and busiest in the state, with a majority of beachgoers coming from nearby Connecticut, they can’t give the green light to Misquamicut yet.

The DEM is hoping to open all of the state beaches around June 1. More guidelines are expected to be released Tuesday.

Healey said they are in need of summer workers. To apply, click here.

© WLNE-TV 2020

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