State officials abandon plan to increase beach parking fees
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — State environmental officials are no longer considering raising beach parking fees in Rhode Island.
Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit said Monday that the controversy about the parking rates detracted from the larger goals of celebrating and supporting state parks and beaches.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed the higher fees at state beaches and campsites in an effort to add staffing in the parks system.
State lawmakers quickly moved to thwart the proposal to raise beach parking rates. A bill was introduced with the support of the House speaker to maintain current rates for the next three summers.
The environmental management department said it’s now proceeding with just the proposed fee increases for campgrounds and other park rentals, such as equestrian areas and picnic tables. Doing so would shift the burden for maintaining these sites from state taxpayers to the users and bring the fee structure more in line with other public and private campgrounds.
Two-thirds of campers are from out of state and fees haven’t risen since 2002, according to the department.
Raimondo has said that long-term investments are needed in the state parks system due to budget and staffing cuts at the department in recent years, combined with increasing visitor use, longer seasons, aging facilities and expanded responsibilities. She wants to add $1.5 million to the department’s parks division for eight new employees.
The department filed a regulation to raise the camping fees. A public hearing is scheduled for April 2. If approved through the rulemaking process, the new fee structure would be applicable to new reservations.