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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

CRMC, RI Sea Grant Charlestown beach walk a resounding success

September 25, 2023, CHARLESTOWN – While working toward the passage of the lateral shoreline access bill this past June, Senator Mark McKenney (Dist. 30 – Warwick) said another legislator commented to him, “We’re the Ocean State. Why don’t we have the most access of any [other states]?"

Beach scene

Photo courtesy of Save The Bay and Seth Holme

A crowd of more than 60 people agreed with nodded heads and murmurs at a recent walking tour of East Beach in Charlestown as part of the continuing education series offered by the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and Rhode Island Sea Grant (RISG) aimed at informing people on issues related to shoreline access. For the last three years CRMC and RISG have hosted webinars and free events, including this walking tour on September 21, 2023.

McKenney, Janet Freedman, former CRMC coastal geologist and now of the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute (CI), Nate Vinhateiro, assistant director of the CI, CRMC staff including Leah Feldman, coastal policy analyst and Emily Hall, coastal geologist, and Clean Ocean Access and Rhode Island Sea Grant staff talked about the elements of the new law and what it means for beachgoers and coastal property owners. More than 100 people registered for the walk, the largest show of interest in the three years of events on this topic.

The law defines the expanded and clearer boundaries of the public’s rights and privileges of the shore outlined in the Rhode Island Constitution. Now the public may use the shore to the “recognizable high tide line,” or wrack line, the maximum height reached by a rising tide, plus 10 feet.

“One way to think about which seaweed line is yours is it’s going to be the seaweed line that’s closest to the water,” Emily Hall, CRMC coastal geologist explained to the people at the event. “When you first hear that it’s a little counter intuitive but anything that’s more recent will wash that seaward line away.”

Wrack lines left by storm events or other extreme high tides do not factor into the 10-foot area, and if the 10 feet goes onto someone’s property, the law does not afford the public entitlement to use privately-owned amenities such as patios, decks, sea walls, or yards.

CRMC Coastal Geologist Emily Hall at center, speaks to the crowd

CRMC Coastal Geologist Emily Hall at center, speaks to the crowd

These talks organized by the CRMC and RISG are part of a larger effort to improve shoreline public access, awareness, and education through opportunities like the webinars and in-person events, and in the future, improved signage and infrastructure, branding and messaging. The CRMC is also working to designate more rights-of-ways in locations throughout Rhode Island, including underserved and urban communities. This effort also dovetails with a directive as part of the new law for the CRMC, Rhode Island Attorney General, and RI Department of Environmental Management to work together on public education and outreach regarding the law and its interpretation.

As part of this effort, CRMC and RISG also held a webinar in June, “Behind the Scenes of the RI Coastal Access Bill.” Information about that discussion and a link to the video on YouTube can be found here -

Check the CRMC web site for additional information and resources pertaining to shoreline public access -, as well as


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