EAST PROVIDENCE, RI -- The last time public swimming was encouraged at Crescent Park Beach in East Providence, American troops had recently returned from Europe after World War I and the Jazz Age was in full swing.

A century later, and after significant clean water restoration efforts, planners are hoping to reopen the scenic, sandy upper Narragansett Bay beach to swimmers by Memorial Day 2026.

Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined Governor Dan McKee and East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva to announce a comprehensive water quality program that will allow Crescent Park Beach to become a licensed, swimmable beach again in the coming years, along with new beach amenities, with a target reopening set for May 2026.

Recognizing the shared challenges and need for regional solutions to address water quality in Narragansett Bay, Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, spearheaded the creation of the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) for coastal watershed restoration back in Fiscal Year 2014.  Over the last decade SNEP has grown into a major clean water success story, with over $55 million in federal funding and the appropriations pipeline flowing to revitalize local watersheds in Rhode Island and southern New England.

This year, $1.275 million in SNEP funding is being utilized to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Opportunity to Advance Resilience grant program. Five grantees across Rhode Island and Southeast Massachusetts were selected this year, including $300,000 for East Providence and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) plan to re-designate Crescent Park Beach as a licensed swimmable beach for the residents of the Riverside neighborhood.

In addition to delivering SNEP funds, Senator Reed championed the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act grant program to help state and local health officials conduct beach water quality monitoring and alert beachgoers when conditions are unsafe.  As a result of Reed’s support, the Ocean State has received $2.3 million in federal BEACH funds over the last decade to keep swimmers safe and waters healthy.

RIDOH and Save the Bay have been monitoring water quality at Crescent Pack Beach since 2017 and recording steady progress. When the beach is designated for swimming, its waters will become part of RIDOH’s regular statewide beach monitoring program. Samples will be collected twice a week at Crescent Pack Beach and analyzed at RIDOH’s State Health Laboratories.

Beaches are closed when bacteria counts in the water are high enough to threaten human health. Bacteria counts often occur after heavy rains which can increase stormwater runoff and sewage overflows.  Swimming in contaminated water can cause health issues such as gastrointestinal distress, respiratory disease, ear and eye infections, or skin rash.

Over the years, Reed has supported federal funding for several water quality improvement projects, such as the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) abatement project, known as RestoredWaters RI.  Phases I and II of the CSO project were completed in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and are responsible for dramatic improvements in water quality in upper Narragansett Bay and the area’s urban rivers and watershed.  In fact, the completion of phase II resulted in bacteria counts in the Bay being cut in half.  Phase III was launched in 2022.

Today, Crescent Beach Park offers scenic views of Narraganset Bay and over 1,000 feet of sandy beach and sits in close proximity to trails, picnic tables, benches, and the historic Crescent Park Carousel, built in 1895 by Charles Looff, recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

By 2026 the project will include the construction of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant public restrooms at Crescent Park and the hiring of lifeguards at the beach to enable formal designation as a swimmable beach. These new restrooms will also benefit the community by enhancing the many public events held every year.

“On a hot day, it’s nice to be able to take a dip and cool off at the beach and that requires clean, safe water conditions.  I’ve worked over the years to deliver federal funds to improve water quality, amenities, and sustainability here at Crescent Park Beach.  For generations, this beach has been closed to swimmers because the water quality simply wasn’t up to snuff for swimming.  The investments we’ve made and the partnerships we’ve built with nonprofits like Save The Bay, The Nature Conservancy, and many others have really helped turn the tide on contaminants and runoff and restored the Bay and beach environment to a cleaner, greener state.  Healthy beaches are good for public health and the health of our economy.  I will continue working to help Rhode Island tap into clean water funding and look forward to returning here for the official opening to welcome swimmers back into the water,” said Senator Reed.