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South County Beach Community In Rhode Island Continues To Retreat As Ocean Creeps Inland

The porch of a cottage in the first row of houses along Roy Carpenter's Beach. This is one of the cottages that will be moved to the back in the next 2 years. Photo by Avory Brookins for RIPR

The porch of a cottage in the first row of houses along Roy Carpenter’s Beach. This is one of the cottages that will be moved to the back in the next 2 years. Photo by Avory Brookins for RIPR

From the rocks at the ocean’s edge on Roy Carpenter’s Beach, it’s just a short walk up to the cottages.

“There’s 21 houses total, 11 in this row and 10 in this row,” Landowner Robert Thoresen said as he headed toward the first two rows on the left side of the property.

The cottages in these rows are in a prime oceanfront location, but they won’t be here for long.

Within the next two years, they will be moved about a quarter mile inland, because the ocean is creeping in closer and closer every year.

Thoresen, who is Roy Carpenter’s great-grandson, remembers 25 years ago there was a lot more real estate between these cottages and the beach.

“You could probably park six cars end-to-end in front of this deck going back this way, then there was a section of gravel parking lot that you could park two cars nose to nose, then there was a two lane road, then there was another gravel parking lot,” he said.

Now, there’s none of that. There’s just a row of sand dunes, then the beach and the ocean.

Thoresen isn’t the only one who’s noticed the change in this area.

A study by The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council found the water’s edge at Matunuck Beach, the beach right next to Roy Carpenter’s, had moved almost 300 feet inland between 1950 and 2014.

“I mean eventually this place is going to be underwater. It’s not if it’s when,” Thoresen said.

When Roy Carpenter owned this lot, it was a place where beachgoers paid to park their cars. Then, in the 1930s, it evolved into a neighborhood where people built cottages to spend their summers. Today, the beach is home to 377 of them.

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