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Fishing the Ocean State’s Waters: Public Access Projects

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In the Ocean State, fishing and boating are undeniably significant aspects of our culture, economy, and recreation. The fishing piers and boat ramps that provide access to saltwater fishing and boating activities are key components in maintaining this important part of our livelihood. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife invests heavily in the maintenance and expansion of this public asset.

A recent partnership with The Nature Conservancy has increased the capacity for the state to secure land, design improvements, and manage contracts related to public access through contract employees. This has served to cut costs and allows for a greater output of work. Members of both organizations meet regularly to prioritize work, discuss improvements, challenges, and ultimately keep public access infrastructure projects moving forward.

The work of the team is spread throughout the state at sites within wildlife management areas, as well as freshwater and saltwater access sites. The following will highlight the accomplishments, ongoing projects, future plans, and sources of funding for saltwater access sites.

Throughout the past two years, state projects for saltwater access infrastructure have totaled $1.4 million, and an additional $1.3 million has been pledged by DEM for municipal projects. These projects work to strengthen already established and popular fishing and boating destinations by providing much needed maintenance and reconstruction. They also improve accessibility for all anglers and boaters regardless of their physical handicap. Some recent project highlights are as follows: The fishing pier at Colt State Park in Bristol has been extended to provide access to better fishing grounds, and sections with lowered railing have been provided to allow for ease of fishing from a wheelchair. Fishing accessibility has also been improved at Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett with the construction of two platform extensions, which now extend out over the waters of the Point Judith Pond Breachway, a favored RI fishing destination. Construction is also now underway in Narragansett to rebuild and expand the Galilee Boat Ramp. The improvements to this ramp will greatly increase the efficiency and ease of use of the facility while providing for ADA accessibility.

RIDEM also works with local municipalities to provide funding and technical assistance for cities and towns that apply for grants to develop fishing and boating infrastructure. Recent municipal partnerships will see the construction of a new boating access location in the City of Providence at the Gano Park Boat Launch. Further upstream on the Seekonk River, the Festival Pier Boat Ramp in the City of Pawtucket will also be renovated with help of RIDEM.

The bulk of the funding for these projects is sourced, through the RI Division of Fish and Wildlife, from the Federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, driven by a federal tax on the purchase of fishing equipment and motorboat or small engine fuels. These funds must be matched by 25 percent of non-federal funds. Some sources of non-federal match include revenue generated from the RI Saltwater Recreational Fishing License program, as well as funds from the RI Capital Development Fund. These local sources of funding are directly leveraged 3 to 1 with the Federal Sport Fish Restoration money to provide the funding necessary to improve the public infrastructure for fishing and boating that is highly valuable to Rhode Island residents.

Within the next couple of years RIDEM hopes to complete even more boating infrastructure projects. Plans are already in place to rebuild state boat ramps at Gull Cove in Portsmouth, Sakonnet Harbor in Little Compton, and Goddard Park in Warwick. RIDEM also plans to increase partnership with other local municipalities to help them improve boating access throughout the state.

Recent Marine Public Access Projects

State Public
Access Projects

Lighting installation at Mt. Hope Boat Ramp

Fishing Platform Extensions at Salty Brine State Beach

Colt State Park Fishing Pier Expansion & Maintenance

Reconstruction of the Galilee Boat Ramp (underway)

Boat Ramp maintenance projects:

Colt Park Boat Ramp

Weaver Cove Boat Ramp

Bold Pt. and Oakland Beach Boat Ramps (underway)


Gano Park Boat Launch – City of Providence

Festival Pier Boat Ramp (underway)
– City of Pawtucket

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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