Town beach wins approval for July 5 opening

Town beach wins approval for July 5 opening

A man sits on the shore at Notte Park beach operating his remote controlled speed boat last Saturday. (Breeze photo by David Wuerth)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The Governor Notte Park Beach, once notorious for regularly being too dirty for swimmers, has passed yet another test, allowing it to open for the 2014 summer season this Saturday.

"I am happy to report that the beach has passed inspection and is scheduled to open on July 5," said Jeannie Vickers, acting recreation director for the town.

Representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Health conducted their annual pre-opening test at the town beach off Douglas Avenue last Wednesday and the test results that came back by last Friday showed the water in the Wenscott Reservoir had only minimal levels of enterococci bacteria, easily within state requirements.

Of the 62 state beaches monitored by the Department of Health, only seven have been closed for more days than the Notte Park Beach since 2000. Data from the state's beach monitoring division shows that the Notte Park Beach was shut down 11 times for 98 total days from 2000 to 2013.

Unhealthy bacteria counts are often blamed on unusually high numbers of birds in a particular body of water. Heavy rain can also lead to high counts, as trash and refuse is washed into the water.

The Notte Park Beach was ordered closed just a few days before last year's opening date, but the facility ended up getting the go-ahead by the time the June 30 opening day rolled around and stayed open for the entire 2013 summer season.

Town officials had long been frustrated about being forced to shut down the beach for high bacteria levels, a trend that was making it difficult to attract lifeguards for when it was open.

Mayor Charles Lombardi says the lower bacteria levels can be traced back to efforts in 2012 by representatives for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to eliminate the geese that once flocked to the Wenscott Reservoir. Lombardi, who called in the federal officials, says fewer geese means less fecal matter in the water and lower bacteria counts.

In the summer of 2012, and for the better part of the three summers before that, Notte Park Beach was closed to swimmers due to high counts of enterococci bacteria. The bacteria, which indicates fecal contamination according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can cause various health problems, including gastrointestinal infections, urinary tract infections, and wound infections, among others.