Thursday, August 17, 2017

Advocacy in Action: A Win for Public Access in Cranston

By Mike Jarbeau, Narragansett Baykeeper

Protecting and promoting public access to Narragansett Bay is a core component of Save The Bay’s work. Our advocacy staff works tirelessly to identify and engage any actions or activities that could threaten the progress that’s been made around the Bay. Recently, we were made aware of a fast-moving ordinance by the Cranston City Council intended to ban fishing from a public access point at the end of Ocean Avenue in Cranston. The draft ordinance stemmed from complaints from nearby property owners, including the Rhode Island Yacht Club, about littering, noise violations, and congestion at the end of the narrow street. The ordinance was flawed in that it failed to address any of the problems at the site while singling out the fishing community.

The public access site at the end of Ocean Avenue.
(Buildingin the background is Rhode Island Yacht Club)
We worked quickly to gather the relevant facts and met with others opposed to the ordinance, including the Edgewood Waterfront Preservation Association and the Rhode Island Saltwater Angler’s Association. We asked the Coastal Resources Management Council to clarify the city council’s interpretation of state public access policy, and urged the Department of Environmental Management to formally confirm its role as the only agency in the state with the power to regulate fishing activities. We also made the Attorney General’s office aware of potential conflicts with the state constitution. At the same time, we met with the Rhode Island Yacht Club and other neighbors to other solutions. We reached out to city council members to share our concerns and offer Save The Bay’s assistance in promoting public access.

The Save The Bay team attended and testified at the July 24th Cranton City Council meeting in opposition of the ordinance. The council passed an amended version, but we felt it didn’t go far enough, and urged Mayor Allan Fung to veto. The Mayor’s office clarified that it read “and will enforce the ordinance to allow people to stand on the ocean side of the guardrail to the sea wall and on the beach for fishing – but not in the street or on the sidewalk.” In the end, all rights of fishery are maintained at the public access point.

We appreciate the actions of the Cranston City Council in hearing our concerns and amending the ordinance. However, we still do not believe the new ordinance addresses the concerns about noise, litter and parking at the end of Ocean Avenue; we urge the city of Cranston to look closely at solutions that will promote public access at this site and others, and we stand ready to assist. 

Every day, Save The Bay fights for the rights of all to enjoy a healthy Narragansett Bay. Our network of members and supporters plays a huge role by serving as additional eyes and ears in the community. In this case, we were able to further the concerns of community members and work with other organizations and state agencies to raise awareness of a threat to public access and influence positive change.