Grants & Scholarships

Coastweeks in the Ocean State

All Rhode Islanders live within a 30-minute car or bus ride to the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay. Pretty amazing, right? Good reason to call ourselves the “Ocean State.”

The state legislature voted to make this moniker the official nickname in the early 1970s as a means of attracting tourism. In emphasizing the state’s easy access to the ocean, they thought that people might be more inclined to visit Rhode Island, stay awhile, and spend money.


While pristine beaches might play to tourists, Rhode Islanders know that the state’s shoreline and waters—including rivers, streams, brooks, ponds, and coastal waterways—play an important and complex role in our environment, economy, and overall infrastructure.

Every fall, Clean Ocean Access, an environmental nonprofit focused on improving ocean health, collaborates with Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Resources Center at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, and the Coastal Resources Management Council to build awareness and understanding of our coast through a series of events and activities that take place during Coastweeks. These organizations apply the best available science and information to help coastal cities and communities plan for, adapt to, and manage a rapidly changing landscape. Coastal resilience, climate change, coastal ecosystems, sea-level rise and erosion, are all issues of concern to our community – and to the Rhode Island Foundation. The Foundation has supported these organizations as they draw connections between community health, quality of life, and environmental conservation — in environmental education, stormwater management, and shoreline change planning.

Now in its 39th year, Coastweeks features salt marsh tours, aquatic invasive species monitoring, trash skimmer tours, and yes, beach cleanups. As greater demands are placed on the oceans for food, jobs, energy, recreation, and transportation, our small state will continue to require careful planning of finite resources in order to preserve the rights and needs of all Rhode Islanders.

Did you know that…?

  • Including spillover effects across all sectors of the Rhode Island economy, the total economic impact of commercial fishing is 4,381 jobs and output of $419.83 million.
  • The most eroded portions of Rhode Island’s coastline have lost over 250 feet of beach in just 50 years.
  • Since 1930, sea-level in Rhode Island has increased an average of 1 inch per decade.
  • Salt marshes protect shorelines from erosion by buffering wave action and trapping sediments and reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater.
  • New invasive species arrive every year in Narragansett Bay, some from as far as Europe and Asia, many of which have negative impact on local environment.
  • There are five marina trash skimmers in Southern New England; the skimmers on Aquidneck Island have removed more than 30,000 pounds of debris since 2017.