2018-01-18 / Front Page

Major Changes Ahead for Second Beach

By James Merolla

Calling Second Beach the “crown jewel” of Middletown, the Town Council has proposed a major expansion of parking, structural improvements, consolidation of staff, and improved customer service, among other recommendations.

From food and lemonade stands on the beach and solar compost bathrooms to turning the campground into additional parking for residents, the changes are designed to improve the experience for local beachgoers.

The recommendations come after weeks of study prompted by a major break-in and theft at the beach trailer last summer, and by various email and personal complaints to councilors on how the beach was operated.

“Some of it’s exciting and some is basic business sense,” said Councilor Paul Rodrigues, representing a beach subcommittee that consisted of three councilors, with input from residents and police, the harbormaster, Town Administrator Shawn Brown and various public officials.

The subcommittee worked closely with Narragansett Parks and Recreation Director Steven Wright to formulate the recommendations. “[Wright] offered some valuable insight and how they run a very, very tight operation,” Rodrigues said.

The biggest change would be the conversion of the current campground into a resident sticker parking lot with showers and changing rooms, according to Rodrigues, who said Second Beach can currently accommodate 1,866 vehicles if you include all the lots.

“This is the one we are excited about. We listen to the residents. This is a long time coming,” he said. “There is always an issue with resident parking. Here is an opportunity for us to take care of our residents and listen.

“Here’s the drawback,” he added. “The campground brings in x amount of dollars with x amount of expenses, $97,500 in revenue. Nobody wants to give up revenues … There is give-and-take. This is the take.”

Councilor Rick Lombardi, who conceived the idea, said the plan is to add between 350 and 400 new parking spaces for beachgoers. “This is not a big loss in the long run if we can give a resident a spot to park at the beach, a bathroom and a shower,” he said.

Other key recommended changes include purchasing five solar composting bathrooms costing $55,000 apiece; installing three message boards for traffic control; petitioning CRMC for 20 additional moorings, half to be transient; adding a 20-by-30-foot L-shaped dock from Memorial Day to Labor Day; and installing security cameras at all parking lot entrances.

As a result of last year’s break-in at the beach trailer, the council also recommended that all revenue be deposited into a designated safe at the Middletown Police Department at the close of each business day.

Finally, the council recommended that the beach manager report directly to the town administrator. “We found that operation of the beach is somewhat loosely run,” Rodrigues said. “We thought it would be a good idea to review all current staff members [and] require a friendly, customer service-oriented staff. As far as maturity goes, that is difficult to find sometimes,” Rodrigues said. “Not a knock on the kids. They do a great job. It’s not an easy thing to deal with when people are hot and get irate.”

The proposed changes will be voted on next month.

Other recommendations under consideration: y Installing new crosswalks. y Structural improvements to roof trusses, replacing windows in the main campground building and installing aluminum railings. y Installing solar foot and pedal showers at the main building, solar shower hoses on the beach and 13 free sunscreen dispensers, all natural and child safe. y Food and lemonade carts on the beach with healthier food alternatives. y All satellite parking lots require two signatures when delivering or receiving tickets/revenues. y All-season passes purchased at the beach sold at the main gate. y Resident parking stickers would be a different color from nonresident parking stickers. y Hiring a more diverse staff. y All beach employees, with the exception of lifeguards, wear a photo ID. y Employee cell phone use allowed only for emergencies. y Employees not allowed to wear ear buds. y A review of the current pay scale for all beach employees. y Beach management and staff wear polo shirts with STAFF in large print in the back and the town logo in front; full-time seasonal employees receive three shirts, part-timers receive two shirts. Lifeguard uniforms would be red and numbered for ID purposes.

Two uniformed police officers stationed on the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day to enforce cigarette and drinking bans. y Employees park at the furthest west end of the parking lot.

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