Here’s a list that Rhode Island really should dominate: water quality at the beach. But despite our reputation for having the some of the best stretches of coastline anywhere, the Ocean State ranked 16th out of 30 states in a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, reports the Projo.
Last summer, according to the report, beaches were closed a total of 74 times as a result of too much bacteria in the water. Massachusetts, which ranked 12th, closed beaches more than a 1,000 times and only lists about twice as many shoreline access points as does Rhode Island.
Now, Lil’ Rhody may be unfairly punished in such a survey due to its many bay-side beaches – which flush slower and tend to attract more development, thus bringing more sewage and yard run-off. But what matters about this list, and all the other ones Rhode Islanders love to hate and hate to love, is not the methodology but rather the reputation they help to confer.
And let there be no mistake about this: nothing impacts Rhode Island’s economy more than the beach. Not property taxes or income taxes, not struggling cities or affluent suburbs, not Curt Schilling or public sector unions. None of them come close to the state’s greatest economic force: the beach.
Tourism is the state’s fourth largest industry, bringing in more than $2 billion in 2009, and with all due respect to Yawgoo, Twin River and Federal Hill this is mostly driven by our beaches. They also act as an engine for local villages: can you think of a waterfront state park or beach that doesn’t have a thriving downtown not far away (other than sleepy Charlestown)?
But these are simply the most quantifiable way to measure the impact the beach has on life in Rhode Island. Others might be harder to gauge but they are likely just as tangible. People move here, and for the most part then subsequently don’t ever leave, because of the quality of life. By and large that quality of life is directly related to the stretch of waterfront sand that is no more than 20 minutes from your front door no matter where you live in the state.
So if there are any lists we need to pay close attention to it’s the ones that speak to the beach. After all, the Ocean State will never look better than it does from the beach.