Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Biology

First Advisor

Bruce Marti


The 216 Public Rights of Ways (ROWs), which intersect the coast of Rhode Island are important in that they help to uphold the Public Trust Doctrine or the right of the public to freely enjoy the pleasures of the shoreline. Unfortunately, as the Ocean State's population has risen over the past decade and the pressures along its coastline have increased, the number of ROWs being designated from year to year as public has declined dramatically. Furthermore, the budget allotted to the Rhode Island Coastal Resource Management Council (CRMC) to discover and designate these pathways to the inter-tidal areas of the State have all but disappeared. If future generations of Rhode Islanders are to utilize of the State's shorelines in other ways than flocking to its already crowded beaches, then the existing ROWs should be made as accessible as possible.

The purpose of this thesis was to study a sample of the existing Rhode Island ROW s in hopes of discovering how important various factors are in determining public utility. The factors taken into account include the number of parking spaces at a particular site, whether or not a site was marked or not, whether or not a site was maintained, the population of the town the ROW was located in as well as its population densities, and the property values of single family homes in towns where ROW s were located. Along with these variables, site amenities were also examined.

Data were collected from forty randomly picked sites over the course of a fifteen-week summertime study. The sites were located in twelve coastal towns ranging from Westerly to Tiverton. Information was obtained by conducting spot checks of the sites on weekends, as this was the most likely time that people might utilize the sites. Once the data was gathered it was then analyzed using Statistical Analysis Systems (SAS). The statistics indicate that markers/signs do in fact attract more people to sites as people were three times as likely to visit a site that was properly marked compared to one with no marker. Sites that had more parking spaces did gamer more of the public, but only when the amount of spaces was over twelve. Surprisingly, sites with one to twelve parking spaces captured about the same amount of people as sites with no parking spaces. Sites that were maintained attracted almost five times as many people as sites that were not maintained. Property values, town populations, and population densities all showed no relationships to the amount of people making use of sites. Site amenities that registered high on the SAS stepwise procedure were parking spaces, sunbathing, and boat launches.

At the outset of the study, it was assumed that parking spaces would play a more significant role in attracting the public. It was also assumed that ROWs located in more populated towns or towns with higher population densities would account for more people and would therefore need more parking access. In light of the fact that the results in no way supported this, it would be hard to make an argument for expanding parking opportunities. However, a case could be made that when there are many spaces available the public is more apt to know about a spot and make use of it, as was the case in the study. Therefore, towns might expand parking opportunities at sites, which are known to be frequented regularly by the public, as was the case with the Black Point area in Narragansett. Recommendations could also be made for towns to clearly mark and maintain already existing sites. Special attention could also be paid to garbage removal and to curtailing after hour activities at popular spots where abutting landowners might be disturbed. Finally, the public could be made more aware of the existing sites through better distribution of ROW maps. Perhaps inexpensive maps could be distributed in newspaper form at locations where much of the public frequents such as supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.



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