Money Watchers: Slight decrease in RI beach attendance

It seems the only thing that will drive down beach attendance is bad weather, and there was plenty this spring.

But the doubling of beach fees two years ago seems to have been accepted by the public.

"July 1 of 2011, we received some new increases in our rates. We saw a little decrease then. We saw a big decrease last year in our attendance. But the revenue is kind of evening off because of the 100 percent increase. But the public still wants to come to the beaches, so we're still seeing the attendance that we always see," said Bob Paquette, chief of Rhode Island Parks and Recreation.

There's no more discussion of any more hikes in the beach fees, which are collected in the form of parking rates. The fees are $10 a day for residents, $20 for out-of-state residents.

And the numbers year-to-year for the month of July show a decrease following the imposition of the new rates in 2011.

But Paquette said the money from out-of-staters helps keep the beach fee revenues around $3 million a year.

"Misquamicut State Beach is probably 80 percent, Connecticut residents and New York state residents. And we still see the numbers coming. Fortunately they still see our locations as great destinations," he said.

One result of the beach fee increase is the use of state parks, which do not charge admission.

"All our state parks are free to entrance. And when we did raise the rate we did see an increase in the use of Lincoln Woods, Goddard Park and Pulaski Park. As people get used to these rates unfortunately, they come back," Paquette said.