2011-06-02 / Front Page

Visitors flock to Beavertail to spend the holiday weekend

By Margo Sullivan

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but with so much to do on a Saturday and so little time to pack in everything, dozens skipped the rat race to the Newport Bridge and turned off for Beavertail State Park.

Under a canopy of feathery trees wafting in an almost perfect 72-degree day, the season’s first beach goers, like Michaela Stanelun of Cranston, made a little detour down Southwest Avenue and headed to the lighthouse.

“It’s too cool for Narragansett Beach,” said Stanelun, who has been coming to Jamestown since she was a child. This time, she brought friend Eric Chen of Boston, who was making his second trip to Beavertail.

“It’s quiet,” he said. “It’s peaceful and not too crowded.” They settled into the back of the RAV 4 and watched the boats sail by.

“We just had a little picnic,” Chen said. “We’re here to enjoy the view and the rest and relaxation. The weather is getting better.”

Shawn Callahan and Laura DuBrava of Old Saybrook, Conn., drove to escape the tourists. While at Beavertail, Callahan sat in a beach chair and supervised the kite, which he had anchored on a tie in the ground so he didn’t have to hold the string.

“Oops,” he said. “We got a tangle.”

DuBrava said they come often to Jamestown. They bring a kite and a picnic and enjoy the view.

“This is all we’re doing,” she said. “Everyone is all focused on Newport,” she said. “This is nice, if not nicer. And your toll is up to $4.”

Saturday started foggy and stayed hazy, but the weather didn’t bother DuBrava.

“This is Memorial Day weekend, and I thought it was going to be a lot cooler,” she said. “This isn’t bad. This is good.”

Darrell Cardwell of Dayton, Ohio, sat on the lawn and watched the view. He is first tenor with a traveling church group from Tennesee’s Crown College, and he was seeing Beavertail for the first time. He wasn’t disappointed about the cloud cover, he said.

“It’s gorgeous,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Look at what God created. It could be storming right now and I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

Mickey Finn of Cranston has visited hundreds of times, and he’s still enchanted. “This is the most beautiful place to come and relax,” he said. “I’m a native Rhode Islander born and brought up here. This is a place where I can come alone.”

This time, though, he brought friend Sue Fanning of Cranston. “I can come with Sue. I don’t have to fight the beaches. There’s no admission. And they keep it so well groomed here.”

Fanning said she is usually to be found at one of the state beaches, like Roger Wheeler or East Matunick.

“I’m a beach person,” she said. But she’s fine with the little beach under the rocks at Beavertail.

“We come and sit out. Take a cooler. It’s relaxing.”

“That’s the word,” he said. “Relaxing.”

And even though the sun didn’t come out, they were OK waiting.

Finn, in fact, visits so often at Beavertail, he’s been asked to witness one of the many weddings.

One day, a couple and a judge asked him if he’d do the honors.

”I said I’d be glad to,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful thing you ever want to see.” Finn gestured toward a corner by the water near a walking path and said that’s the spot where the bride and groom stood.

“This is very different here,” he said. “This isn’t like Scarborough or Roger Wheeler or Salty Brine.”

Around the lighthouse, Brittany Miller, the naturalist, taught some children about the African spur thigh tortoise. The lighthouse is now home to a 5-year-old tortoise that was rescued from Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo.

“She was in rough shape,” Miller said. The tortoise has, so to speak, come out of her shell after receiving some tender loving care in Jamestown. Lara Roby of Pompton Plains, N.J., brought her children to see the tortoise, and Jacob, 7, and Jake Marie, 3, watched the head pop out to munch grass.

“The tourists tend to miss us a little,” Miller said, because the lighthouse and museum are a little away from the lawn.

Back on the lawn, Paula and Roger Allard of East Greenwich, both retired East Greenwich High School teachers, and daughter Stephanie, a Coventry High teacher, enjoyed a picnic and a little sunbathing. They come often, they said. They couldn’t remember when they started.

“I’m 68, and I came with my parents,” he said.

“We returned from Florida and the first few days we were back, it was beautiful,” Paula Allard said. “Then it snowed. And it seems as if it’s been raining ever since.” But that didn’t matter today. It was just a good day to relax.

“Sometimes, we bring a kite,” she laughed.

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