FacebookTwittereNewsletter SignUp

CRMC Logo

RI Coastal Resources Management Council

...to preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

Off-Road Vehicles
Why Regulate Vehicular Traffic on Beaches and Barrier Beaches?

Rhode Island barrier beaches, their associated sand dunes, wetlands and salt ponds are limited and valuable natural resources in need of protection and careful management.

Barrier beaches shield the biologically productive and valuable salt ponds, wetlands and frequently low lying mainland behind the barrier beach from the ravages of coastal storms by absorbing and dissipating the energy of storm driven waves. The barrier beach's shielding and protective function is enhanced by the height and stability of sand dunes which in their natural state are formed by beach grass which traps and anchors wind blown sand.

Beach grass is an extremely hardy plant, but will not tolerate trampling or disturbance. Any areas where beach grass has been altered or destroyed, un-stabilized sand is exposed to erosion by winds and waves and the integrity of the barrier beach as a storm buffer is compromised. The consequences of such alterations and destruction include increased inland flooding and wave damage during storms, disruption of salt ponds and wetland environments and/or acceleration of the natural shoreward migration of the barrier beach.

For all of these reasons and in order to implement its responsibilities to protect and restore coastal resources, and to prevent their use in any manner which injures or compromises the rights of others or the public at .Iarge, the Coastal Resources Management Council has found it to be in the public interest and welfare to adopt the regulations below.

Beach Vehicle Permits

Beach Vehicle Permits are issued by the CRMC primarily to ensure that vehicles can safely travel off road and are equipped with safety equipment in the event that they get stuck in the sand. Access to beach areas is controlled by municipal or RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) regulations only. A CRMC Beach Vehicle Permit does not guarantee access anywhere; it only ensures that vehicles which have such a permit can safely travel off road. The original intent of these permits was to allow fishermen access to fisheries resources.

General Driving Restrictions

  • Vehicles are prohibited on dunes or within 75 feet of the dune crest except on trails marked expressly for vehicle use. Prohibited areas may or may not be vegetated.
  • Vehicles are prohibited in vegetated areas anywhere on the barrier.
  • Parking on the dunes or other vegetated areas at any time shall result in revocation of the Beach Vehicle Pass.
  • Vehicle access to the beach shall only be through authorized trails.
  • During the summer beach season (Memorial Day through Labor Day) driving on beach areas is generally prohibited throughout the State in accordance with municipal regulations. Currently there are two exceptions to this: on Block Island beaches and then only in accordance with the Town of New Shoreham regulations; and, at the RIDEM owned and operated East Beach Sand Trail in Charlestown in accordance with RIDEM regulations.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s East Beach Sand Trail (Charlestown)

During the summer beach season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), daytime off-road driving is restricted at the majority of public-controlled beaches in Rhode Island due to the sheer volume of beachgoers and the safety issues that presents. An exception to this is the East Beach Sand Trail in Charlestown, RI, which is only accessible through the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) Parks and Recreation owned East Beach site and is regulated and managed by the RIDEM Division of Parks and Recreation.

Due to the congestion and crowding issues occurring during this summer season, RIDEM institutes and enforces a 40-car parking limitation on the RIDEM East Beach Sand Trail. We understand that this causes frustration; however, RIDEM is managing this activity for safety purposes. Therefore purchasing a Beach Vehicle Permit does not guarantee access to the East Beach Sand Trail.

The RIDEM East Beach Sand Trail has parking for 40 vehicles in two parking areas (see maps on pages 11 - 13). RI Department of Environmental Management closes their East Beach Sand Trail when the 40 vehicle limit has been reached.

Parking anywhere other than the designated lots or pull-off spots on the RIDEM East Beach Sand Trail between April 1 and September 15 shall result in revocation of the Beach Vehicle Permit.

Parking on East Beach is on a first come first served basis. A Beach Vehicle Pass does not guarantee access to the RIDEM East Beach Sand Trail.

After the busy Labor Day holiday weekend, most of these locally-controlled access areas remain open for use, but also re-open to the traditional use for which a beach vehicle permit was designed: fishing.

Stedman Government Center
Suite 116, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879-1900
Voice 401-783-3370 • Fax 401-783-3767 • E-Mail cstaff1@crmc.ri.gov

RI SealRI.gov
An Official Rhode Island State Website