Non-resident season pass eliminated at Narragansett Town Beach

Narragansett Town Beach seen on February 14, 2018.

It’s winter in New England, but Rhode Islanders are already dreaming of long summer days at the beach.

If you enjoy Narragansett Town Beach, it will cost you $200 for a season pass if you live outside of town.

“Last year, you paid $50 for a pass for you that only you could use. We are not doing that this year,” Town Beach Manager Scott Hassell told NBC 10 News Tuesday. “We’re not selling individual season passes to non-residents of Narragansett.”

Instead, the beach is offering a “transferable pass,” which means it can be swapped from person to person, with avid beach-goers having the option to share the pass with others.

“But only one person can use it at a time,” Hassell said. “So, if you purchase it and you are not using it, you can give it to a friend so they can go to the beach for the day.”

Hassell said the beach staff is aware of the potential for scams as the new policy is introduced.

In the past, passes included a photo of the person who purchased the pass. That won’t be the case as of this season.

“We are constantly on the lookout for scams,” Hassell said. “No one else can use that pass unless you leave the beach and give it to them.”

Hassell said the Town Council recently decided to “do away” with the individual season pass and create a new policy.

“They make the decisions, I don’t. I just enforce them,” Hassell said.

The Town Council also changed the daily beach fee from $8 to $10, citing overcrowding and unruly behavior for the fee boost.

Council President Susan Cicilline-Buonanno said the goal is to better accommodate both residents and non-residents.

"We're trying to make it more residential-friendly, but open to visitors," she said, noting that while it's great that the beach is popular, it's also uncomfortably crowded. "We don't want to prevent people from coming, so we wanted to figure out a way where everyone is welcome."

Steve Wright, who is the head of the town's parks and recreations department, agreed.

"We are certainly not on the position to penalize anyone here. We're all about customer service," Wright said. "We're trying to be fair to everyone across the board, but because of the nature of the beach and trying to have everyone enjoy that beach, we need to be able to have a system where we don't have overcrowding, especially on weekends and holidays."

Wright went on to tell NBC 10 that the town has been holding a workshop meeting at the end of each beach season for the last few years, with residents and other people from throughout Rhode Island attending.

In September 2017, Wright, along with the Town Council and the public, gathered for the annual workshop, with several people saying they were concerned about overcrowding at the beach.

"Over the last three years, we've seen an increase in parking and crowds," Wright said. "It's been much busier the last three years."

While Narragansett is a tourist destination, with its many hotels, rentals, as well as bed and breakfast spots across the area, there are also a lot of taxpayers that have been worried about issues at the beach, including a lack of parking and overpopulation, plus problems with underage drinking and teenagers being disruptive and disrespectful to fellow patrons.

"It's a very difficult balancing act each and every year, but it's a resident beach," Wright said. "So, this past year we're just trying to minimize some of these concerns and one of the recommendations was the elimination of non-resident beach passes. We always welcome non-residents and tourists -- that's not the point. We will be welcoming them for a day rate and they can certainly park, but not for a season pass this year."

Cicilline-Buonanno said she is interested in seeing if the changes prove to be "viable solutions" for residents and visitors alike. Wright shared similar sentiments.

"We didn't look at this lightly. We took a hard look at the numbers and it's something we're going to do for the 2018 season," he said, also noting that the transferable pass has been offered at the beach for a number of years. "We're doing our best to make some positive changes there and we'll see what happens. At the end of the season, we'll tweak it again if we have to."

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