Rhode Island Beaches

While over spring break I returned home to Rhode Island. The weather was sunny and with powerful winds blowing. While talking with my family members they were relieved to see clear skies after they had the large dumping of snow in the past week.  With such nice weather, I went on a run and finished at my local beach, Barrington Town Beach, which looks out to Narragansett Bay. This location is a lot different from Burlington regarding the drastic changes in vegetation, wildlife, land formation, and ecosystems.  

One of the biggest changes in the two locations is that Rhode Island is not landlocked and is on the coast. With this difference, there are many species, specifically saltwater marine life, that is not located in Vermont, such as gray seals, harp seals, harbor seals, clams, oysters, mussels, and scallops. A big concern in recent time is shellfish filtering the water in the Narraganset Bay which is a positive action, but they have been absorbing pollutants like sewage and toxic metals. With shellfish absorbing these substances it makes them unable to be eaten hurting the fishing and reassurance economy. Another issue that is trying to be solved by Save the Bay, a non-profit organization striving to protect the environment of Rhode Island, is regaining the scallop species in the area. Scallops habitat in the ocean is eelgrass beds, which the organization is trying to recover due to diseases, pollution, and coastal development resulting in the vegetation to die. A resolution to this problem is scallop have to be placed in cages where they can spawn at sanctuaries in the Bay and in salt ponds to try to increase the species. Another is the multiple Save the Bay clean up down around the state in coastal areas and identifying where runoff is occurring.

Rhode Island has a very low elevation compared to Vermont meaning, unfortunately, there are no mountains or hiking trails to travel along. One thing that the state has though is many wonderful beaches to visit, swim in, or even surf at.  While going to Barring Town Beach, Narragansett Beach, Second Beach, and may more what you will always notice is the sand dune environment.  What my town beach has a lot of is Ammophila Arenaria, otherwise, known as beach grass. These species can tolerant the salt spray, strong winds, and burial by blowing or accumulating sand.  They also help the beach by protecting the area from erosion. With hopefully warmer weather and spring coming they should begin to grow again after a long fall and winter. Birds will also use these plants to nest in, but one concern is that their nesting areas can be close to humans or developed areas.

The town of Barrington once belonged to the Pokanoket Wampanoag tribe, Pokanoket meaning land at the clearing, but are referred to in current times as the Wampanoag. When Europeans came over they brought disease that wiped out the many of the Wampanoag tribe members. As time progressed the town became little agricultural community where crops would grow such as grains, corn, rye, oats, barley, and apples. If you drive around town you may notice many grassland fields with stone walls around them since farmers did this to separate land. When the railroad connecting to Providence had been completed the town became a suburb for commuters to live in. This attracted many people, specifically the baby boomers, causing the town to establish schools in order for their children to get an education.

The natural history of Barrington Town Beach and many other areas along the coat is that the Wampanoag tribes would travel in their cannons along the ocean and up the current in order to hunt for food or means of travel. As time progressed and suburb settlement began in the town the water was used very often for the recreation purposes. The bedrock of the beach is mostly made of layers of clay, gravel, sand, and silt soils, which were formed near the end of the last ice age when the melting of glaciers occurred. Most people who lived in the town would go to this natural area as a place to escape the busy lives they had a home. They often would bring their children and go swimming or lay in the sand. Sailing was also a popular activity that many locals were apart of since the coastal environment has very strong winds to push the sails forward. 

(Source: Barrington Preservation Society)

Lots of seagulls can be spotted here in the summertime and late fall. I have mostly seen them moving with the tide, searching for crabs, fighting over food scraps left behind by humans, or leaving white droplets on peoples cars.  When I visited today on a warm Sunday afternoon there was not a lot of seagulls to be seen, but there was a few off in the distance moving with the waves. It may be too cold for them just yet to be returning to Rhode Island since we still have a few more days of rainy and cold weather ahead.