With Independence Day and the peak of the beach season fast approaching, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is encouraging beachgoers to buy season and daily flex passes in advance online to help ease traffic tie-ups during the holiday weekend. Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures are expected on the Fourth of July and next week, bringing the potential for large crowds and traffic backups at our beaches. To keep cars moving, season passes are no longer sold at beach entrances. DEM encourages online purchase of daily “flex” and seasonal parking passes at www.beachparkingRI.com.

“Although DEM cannot eliminate beach traffic, we are hopeful that raising customer awareness of the option to buy season and daily flex passes online at www.beachparkingRI.com will reduce entry times,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Especially during the holiday weekend with many thousands of people all going to the same beaches at the same times, people should expect that they may encounter traffic backups and closed lots. We’re asking folks to plan ahead and to be patient and courteous to others as they enter the beach parking lots.”

New This Weekend: Masks to be Distributed at State Beaches With COVID cases continuing to decline in the state, officials are urging Rhode Islanders not to become complacent about the pandemic. DEM is concerned about the lack of mask wearing on the pavilions, near concessions, and in beach restrooms. To address this concern, DEM staff will be handing out free masks at state beaches this weekend to those who are not wearing them in congregated areas. “Whether to buy a Del’s, pick up food at the concessions, or use the restrooms, visitors generally are not wearing face coverings, which are one of the most effective ways of limiting the spread of the coronavirus,” said Director Coit. “Wearing a mask in all public places where you are close to other people and cannot easily, continuously, and measurably maintain six feet of physical distance is what the Rhode Island Department of Health recommends and it’s the civic-minded thing to do.”

DEM offers the following tips to ease traffic lines at the entrance booths:

1. Get your pass in advance or pay for your daily pass using a credit card or exact change. Nobody likes waiting, especially on a hot sticky day. But you can speed things up – for yourself and the people behind you – by having exact change or credit card ready when you reach the entrance booth.

2. Buy season beach passes online. DEM has discontinued selling season passes at beach entrances because each transaction takes up to seven minutes to process, whereas the sale of a day pass takes only about a minute. With thousands of beachgoers, the longer transactions add up and slow traffic. Weekends and holidays are the busiest days at state beaches, so you’ll save time if you buy a season parking pass online. If you prefer a person-to-person transaction, you may buy season passes at the offices of DEM’s parking vendor, LAZ, in the overflow parking lot at Scarborough State Beach. This office is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM. A Rhode Island resident season pass costs $30. Anyone who buys their pass online or before heading to the beach will be able to use newly installed express lanes for quick entry at Scarborough North, Scarborough South, Roger Wheeler, East Matunuck, and Misquamicut state beaches. Be prepared that during peak hours, express lanes may convert to regular lanes to allow more cars off the road and into lots.

3. Be patient and plan for delays. Even with the short processing time for daily pass sales, you will likely have to wait in line to reach the entrance booth. Last weekend, DEM increased parking by 25% at Rhode Island state beaches to try to keep lines of cars moving and reduce wait times at entrances. When beaches opened June 1, DEM limited parking to 50% capacity at major beaches. By increasing parking capacity, DEM added more than 2,000 spaces systemwide. At 75% capacity, beach lots will hold around 6,000 vehicles. Despite these changes, beachgoers should expect that they may encounter traffic backups and closed lots.

4. Use the new online tool to check whether beach parking lots are full before taking a drive to the beach. Beach visitors can go to www.riparks.com/beachpass to check on parking lot status, and then plan their beach day accordingly. Using a color-coded message in which green indicates parking is available, orange indicates the lot is near capacity, and red means the lot is full, the website gives beachgoers the parking capacity status of the five major state beaches – Scarborough North and South, Roger Wheeler, East Matunuck, and Misquamicut – about once every hour.

5. Daily and Seasonal Parking Rates. The fee structure for the 2020 season is the same as last year. The daily beach parking fee for RI residents is $6 on weekdays and $7 on weekends and holidays. The fee for a season pass for residents is $30. Non-resident parking is $12 on weekdays and $14 on weekends and holidays. A season pass is $60 for non-residents. A 50% discount on daily parking fees and season passes applies for senior citizens 65 years and older. Fees are based solely on the vehicle registration (i.e., license plate) of each vehicle entering beach facilities. All Rhode Island-registered vehicles will be subject to resident parking rates; non-Rhode Island plates will be subject to non-resident rates. Any Rhode Islander who already holds a 2019 no-cost disability beach pass may continue to use it for entry into state beach parking lots for the 2020 season. Those who have misplaced their 2019 pass or who are eligible for a new no-cost disability pass may contact the RI State Parks Headquarters at 667-6200 for instructions on how to obtain it.

Beach Visitors Can Order Food and Beverages Online from Salty’s To reduce lines and crowding in and around beach concession stands, DEM is encouraging beachgoers to use the new online system to order food and beverages from Salty’s, the beach concessionaire at Roger Wheeler State Beach, East Matunuck State Beach, Salty Brine State Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and the newly rebuilt Misquamicut State Beach. Beachgoers can make purchases at Salty’s at http://www.saltysri.com/ and will receive a message when their order is ready for pick up.

Be a Good Environmental Steward and Carry-In, Carry-Out Your Trash DEM is asking people to be good stewards and take personal responsibility. Everyone who enjoys parks, beaches, and public outdoor spaces has a responsibility to keep them clean. Consistent with this ethic, DEM will continue the carry-in/carry-out trash policy that has been in effect since 1992..