Bristol has 37 rights of way that lead to the shoreline and at least 11 of them are now linked to an online mapping tool created by the Coastal Resources Management Council for public use.
The CRMC’s new Geographical Information System map of Rhode Island, launched in late April, features orange dots pinpointing 221 state-designated rights of way all over the coastline, from Westerly to Little Compton, and north to Warwick and East Providence.
With a click of the mouse, a host of details about the paths to the water, some commonly used as boat launches, comes up.
Some of the rights of way have pictures of the site and associated stone monuments as well as links to legal information accompanying the verbal descriptions, and the CRMC staff is working to add photos to every link.
“It’s a great tool for the public,” said Edward M. Tanner, principal planner/zoning officer for Bristol. “It’s an important issue. We occasionally get inquiries and complaints – ‘Someone’s blocking a right of way’ – [so] it’s great to let the public know these are there for everyone to use. I’m glad to know that this is there.”
There are a host of rights of way to the water with different types of public and private access, compared with the 221 public rights of way that the state is responsible for protecting, said Kevin Cute, marine-resources specialist and policy analyst for the CRMC, and Pam Rubinoff, coastal-management specialist for the Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant at the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.
Rubinoff pointed out that the Sea Grant program features a “Daytripper’s Guide” online, a more traditional website that is not GIS-based but nonetheless gives residents and tourists alike a sense of waterfront access in coastal towns.
What makes the mapping tool so valuable, Cute said, is that Rhode Island is the only state that has shoreline privileges written into its constitution.
“One of CRMC’s most important tasks is to find a way to provide public access to the shore,” said Cute.