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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 follow regulations:

Vehicular Use on Sand Dunes:

Reference: Coastal Resources Management Plan, Section 210.1 (PDF)

Vehicle traffic across the sand dunes shall be prohibited except along marked and stabilized trails. Such trails shall be required wherever access across sand dunes is provided.

This regulation shall not be construed as establishing any right of trespass on or across private property or where it is otherwise prohibited or restricted by public or private agencies.

  1. Vehicles are prohibited on dunes or within 75 feet of the dune crest except on trails marked expressly for vehicle use. Prohibited areas mayor may not be vegetated.
  2. Vehicles are prohibited in vegetated areas anywhere on the barrier beach.
  3. Vehicle access to the Salt Pond is prohibited. Access to the pond shall be by foot only.
  4. Vehicle access to the beach shall only be through authorized trails.
  5. Vehicular use of beaches where net otherwise prohibited or restricted by property owners or by private or public management programs is permitted only under the following conditions:
  1. Motorcycles, mini bikes, snow mobiles, all-terrain motorized cycles and tricycles are prohibited except for authorized management-related vehicles.
  2. A Coastal Resources Management Council annual renewable use permit is required for all vehicles. Such permits are obtained for a fee from the Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of RIDEM and are subject to the following requirements and conditions. In the event these requirements and conditions are not met. the use of the permit shall be subject to revocation by the Councilor its agents.
  1. Vehicles shall have all documentation and registration necessary for operation on the public highways of this state.
  2. All permit applicants shall exhibit proof of current insurance coverage.
  3. All persons operating said vehicles shall have valid operator licenses.
  4. Maximum speed on all beaches shall not exceed 10 mph. Maximum speed on beaches shall not exceed 5 mph when approaching pedestrians.
  5. Ruts or holes caused by vehicles shall be filled and debris removed.
  6. Headlights shall be used by all vehicles while in motion between sunset and sunrise.
  7. Riding on or driving from any position outside the vehicles is prohibited.
  8. Vehicles are prohibited on swimming beaches during the period there are
    safeguards and in operation.
  9. Vehicles shall be at all times subject to town ordinances and all regulations
    restricting the use of private, state or federal properties.
  1. The Council requires for the operator's safety and benefit, that each and every vehicle operated on a beach carry the following equipment in good working order:
  1. shovel (heavy duty or military entrenching tool
  2. tow rope or chain (15 feet, load strength of 1,800 Ibs. chain size 5/16)
  3. jack and support stand (minimum 18" x 18" x 5/8", plywood)
  4. street legal tires (4 ply tread, 2 ply sidewalls) - snow or mud tires are not recommended
  5. spare tire
  6. low pressure tire gage (0>20 Ibs.)
  7. first aid kit
  8. fire extinguisher (approved by Coast Guard or Interstate Commerce Commission)
  9. appropriate emergency signal devises and/or two way radio
  10. flashlight.


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