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Governor's Beach Day: So Sad & Emblematic.

Governor's Beach Day is a tradition that proceeds Governor Raimondo. Each gubernatorial administration offers free parking and free RIPTA for the day at all Rhode Island beaches as a kind of symbolic give-back to the community and a promotion of tourism throughout the state. It's the type of project that most likely happens on autopilot with little involvement of top brass, because it plays out pretty much the same way each year.

But this is a day that could really be used more effectively, so we should demand more from Gov. Raimondo.

First off, free parking is a major incentive to drive. At a time when our beaches are in great danger of being lost to climate change, and when a major cause of Rhode Island's numerous beach closures is runoff from surface parking lots, there's something really irksome about a bread-and-circus holiday each year celebrating free parking at beaches. 

While free RIPTA is nominally an equally important part of Governor's Beach Day, promotions of it tend to bury the lede on RIPTA fares, promoting only the free parking part of the event.

And if you were hoping to take advantage of the free parking, unfortunately by 10:30 in the morning it's probably full.

I don't know how you feel about most Rhode Island beaches. Perhaps you grew up here and have lots of fond memories. And most likely me badmouthing the beach amenities of the Ocean State is not a great way to get me friends and esteem. But I find most of our beaches depressing, and I don't go to them. They're surrounded by surface lots which are ugly and hot. I yearn for my childhood, when we'd go down the Jersey shore, and being at the beach meant being able to walk up and down a boardwalk, see people, buy things, play in an arcade, ride a rented bike up and down, etc. Let me put it more directly: Rhode Island beaches kind of suck (Cliff Walk at Newport notwithstanding-- that's pretty awesome). 

So why promote the thing that is most dysfunctional about our state's waterfront?

Let me be pretty blunt again. My family members are not exercise-inclined people. Like really. I don't say that to be mean to them, but I say it because people assume that I must come from some kind of effete, upper-middle class jet-set of MAML bike riders, who spent our family vacations biking up the Alps in Switzerland or something. No. My family recently visited, and there were a few times when we'd walk just a couple blocks and one of them would grab a wall and catch their breath. For them that was a lot. But growing up, I could count on all my family members to get on a bike on the boardwalk. It's one of the few places when suddenly my family started to walk and bike places consistently. Rhode Island beaches are depressing to me because they lack anything that seemed to make going to the beach special for me. And so every year, when the state has its bread-and-circus holiday around free parking, it kind of pinches me a little inside. It's just so pathetic. I mean, don't you all see that you're about to lose the beaches you have, and so much more, if you don't make a change? 

Sorry to be negative. But I hope it spurs someone to action:

*Cancel the free parking next year.
*Promote RIPTA better.
*If you want to make a generous offer with the parking funding, why not put it to the bus budget for the day so that the buses can run more frequently, or for a longer span of time? 
*Start thinking about the nice things you could have instead of surface lots next to your beaches (maybe additional dunes to promote wildlife and protect houses from flooding. Maybe walkways).

Governor's Beach Day needs to change.


1 comment:

  1. I had a similar reaction when the new state budget called for significantly reduced beach parking pass fees. It was supposed to be this feel-good move, but all it really does is induce more driving and create demand for more parking. And the reduced fees weren't just for locals, but for out-of-staters as well -- what a waste of potential tourism income for our state!

    And I would tend to agree with you about RI beaches, at least the ones I have been to so far (i.e., the ones accessible by bus). Although the Narragansett beaches have nice sand and water, I just feel weirdly exposed and depressed when setting up my towel and umbrella with a parking lot right behind me. I grew up on the Cape and was used to having a buffer of marshland, dunes, and/or boardwalk between the cars and the sand.