Block Island Overview and Ordinances

Block Island is home to one town, the Town of New Shoreham.  The town is governed by a town council, headed by the First Warden, and managed by the Town Manager.  There is a police force of seven officers in the summertime and four year-round; also in tow is the local police dog.  In the summer months the Rhode Island State Police are also on the island.

Plan your vacation wisely and enjoy it safely.  Remember that while it is an island, all of the same rules of the road apply on the island as apply off the island.  Use your seatbelts, stay in your lane and keep to the speed limit of 25 mph. on paved roads and 15mph on dirt roads.  

Bicyclists should obey the same traffic signs as automobiles.  Bicycles should be walked across crosswalks and all bicyclists must stop at stop signs.  Bicycles are NOT permitted on the Greenway Trails.  Nighttime riders must have a light on the front of the bike and a reflector in the rear.  Bicyclists should stay on the right-hand side of the road and, when possible, ride in single file.  Bike helmets are required on riders 18 years and younger.  They are recommended for all riders.

Pedestrians must walk against traffic, or on the left side on roads without sidewalks.

Bicycles, scooters, and skateboards must stay off the sidewalks.

If you should have an accident or witness an accident, PLEASE do not hesitate to seek help from the Rescue Squad.  Block Island has an excellent volunteer rescue squad that will attend to accident victims at no charge.  If you are ambulatory but require some first aid or medical care, you may stop at the Police Station on Ocean Avenue or at the Medical Center on Payne Road during regular office hours.

Town Ordinances Prohibit:

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in public.  This includes on streets, docks and the beach.
  • Disturbing the peace.
  • Mopeds on dirt roads.
  • Unleashed Dogs.
  • Shellfishing without a license.  A license may be purchased at the Harbormasters office at the Boat Basin in New Harbor.
  • Driving on the beaches without a valid CRMC permit. A permit application is available online or at town hall.
  • Driving on the beaches between 9 am and 6 pm from May 15 to October 15.
  • Charcoal fires on boats at docks.
  • Littering.
  • Dumping refuse on roads or in harbors.  All personal garbage must be taken to the transfer station.
  • Camping, except by special permission of the town council.
  • Sleeping overnight in vehicles or on beaches.
  • Beach Fires without a permit.   A permit may be granted at the Police Dispatch office located at the Police Station.

If you should have an accident or witness an accident, PLEASE do not hesitate to seek help from the Rescue Squad.  Block Island has an excellent volunteer rescue squad that will attend to accident victims at no charge.  If you are ambulatory but require some first aid or medical care, you may stop at the Police Station on Ocean Avenue or at the Medical Center on Payne Road during regular office hours.

Vehicles are permitted to drive on Crescent Beach only from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m. No motor vehicle shall be allowed on the beach without a valid, updated permit from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). Permits are available at the police department for $100/residents, $200/non-residents (June 20- Sept. 7) Sunday, 6-7 pm, Monday, 2-3 pm and Friday, 3-4 pm. All motor vehicles of any description are prohibited on dunes except on trails marked expressly for vehicular use. Vehicles are also not allowed on any lands designated “Open Space” and maintained by the town for the benefit of the general public.

The dunes offer a home to countless species of plants and animals that, like the beach itself, need our protection if they are to survive. To help save the life of our dunes and beaches, we urge you to:
• Use designated access paths and parking lots only. 
• Keep off dunes and beach vegetation. 
Keep all vehicles off the beach, as they destroy vegetation and cause beach erosion.
• Do not sleep on the beach overnight.  

Beach fires are prohibited without a permit. Permits are available at the police department, and are valid for one day, expiring at midnight. Fires must be at least 25 feet from dunes. Please clean up and dispose of all trash properly and extinguish fires completely before leaving the beach.

Gas motors banned
All forms of gasoline or diesel fuel-powered motors on boats are not allowed on BI’s freshwater ponds.

Pollutants and contaminants banned
No discharging of any sewage, petroleum products, detergents, pesticides, or any other form of pollutants or contaminants is permitted.

Penalty for violation
Any person violating this ordinance shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine of not more than $100, or confinement for not more than 10 days, or both such fine and confinement. Any person convicted of a second violation shall be subject to a fine of not more than $200, or forfeiture of motor and equipment, or both.

Wildlife refuge areas on Block Island include Sachem Pond, Payne’s Farm, the Southeast Lighthouse, Rodman’s Hollow, Lewis-Dickens Farm, Beane Point and Cormorant Cove. No one may hunt, shoot, trap, or annoy wildlife, or destroy or disturb the eggs, nest or nesting area of any wildlife within designated areas.

Penalty for violation
Any person violating any of the provisions of this ordinance shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100, or be imprisoned not more than 10 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment, together with costs of prosecution.

A license is required for shellfishing. Beds are currently closed to the harvesting of scallops and oysters. The harvesting of clams is restricted. For more info, call the Harbors Department at 466-3204 or stop by the Harbormaster’s shack in New Harbor (adjacent to the Boat Basin), where shellfishing licenses are sold.

Dogs must be licensed and wear tags on a collar.  Unless in a vehicle or on a property of its owner, dogs must be leashed with a cord not exceeding 6 feet in length. For problems contact the Police Department at 466-3220. Horses: the New Shoreham Town Council requests that all persons refrain from riding horses in the downtown area.

Lyme disease: Don’t get ticked off.

Lyme disease is a serious health threat on Block Island. Visitors should make a daily “tick check.” Look for attached ticks, no bigger than a pinhead, red areas, and itchiness. Symptoms include rashes, headaches, joint stiffness, chills, fever, and nausea. Not all ticks carry the disease; not all people are bitten catch it. Infection is uncommon if the tick is removed within 24 hours.

Consult your physician if you suspect you may have become infected. Treatment after early diagnosis is generally effective but becomes more difficult if symptoms are left untreated. Long pants and sleeves are suggested for forays into wooded areas, brush, and meadows.

Pedestrians. Pay special attention to traffic while in the downtown area. According to Rhode Island law, pedestrians must walk against traffic (on the left side) on roads without sidewalks.

Bicyclists. Please take care when cycling the unique roads of Block Island. Ride with the traffic, obey traffic signs and adhere to all rules of the road. Hand signals are very helpful to other traffic and can prevent accidents. Keep on the right side of the road and ride single-file whenever possible. For nighttime riding, a light is required for the front of the bicycle and a reflector should be attached to the rear. Bicycles are not permitted on Greenway trails. Helmets are required for bicyclists age 18 and under, and strongly encouraged for adults.

Automobile drivers. Please exercise extreme caution when traversing Block Island roads. The speed limit is 25 mph island-wide. Pass bicyclists and mopeds only when you are certain it’s safe.

Rollerblades, Scooters, Skateboards. Due to heavy congestion and safety concerns, rollerblading, skateboarding and scootering are not permitted in the downtown area or on Ocean Avenue. Skating and scootering are allowed north of Town Beach, south of the Spring House and on the west side of the island. Please travel with the traffic and adhere to all rules of the road. Scooters with helper motors (electric or gas) are not allowed on roads by RI state law.

Accidents. Do not hesitate to seek help from the Rescue Squad if you have or witness an accident.  First aid and ambulance service is rendered at no cost to you. A portion of the Rescue Squad budget is met by town funds, but the Rescue Squad relies heavily on donations to cover the full costs of training, equipment, supplies and maintenance. Any contribution made to support this work will be welcomed and acknowledged. Donations are tax-deductible. Mail donations to: Block Island Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 214, Block Island, RI  02807.

Recycling. All trash must be separated for recycling. Deposit your sidewalk trash in the recycling containers marked for bottles, cans or trash only.  These special containers are not for household or boat trash. Those renting houses should use the Transfer Station, located on West Beach Road. Recyclables (news-pa-per, glass, cardboard, plastics, aluminum and tin cans) are free. Glass, cans, plastics and aluminum should be clean. Other trash is deposited at a charge of 10 cents per pound, paid in cash, by local check or credit card at the Transfer Station (466-3234).

Rabies notice. State law and town ordinances require that all pets (cats, dogs or ferrets) brought to the island be vaccinated against rabies. In addition to vaccinating pets, people should stay away from all wild and stray animals. Rabies is always fatal unless treated before symptoms develop. Rhode Island rabies hotline: 1-800-482-7878, ext. 3.

Please Conserve Water. While the island’s municipal water company has been producing a lot of good water this summer, water conservation is still encouraged, and the water is very expensive. On properties with septic systems, be sure not to overload the system with showers and dishwashing and clothes-washing all at once. And please don’t shock such systems with paper products, fats, oils and greases.

Bicycles and Mopeds. Bicycles are the preferred rental vehicles. You can explore dirt roads with them. If you do rent a moped,  please note —
• Mopeds are not allowed on dirt roads. 
• By law, a helmet and eye protection must be worn.
• Do not leave the training area until you feel that you know how to operate the moped. Be sure you are familiar with the controls.
• Once you are on the road, proceed slowly enough to examine oncoming road conditions. Do not drive on the shoulder of the road. Driver inexperience, heavy traffic flow, sandy shoulders, sharp curves, and uneven pavement are common causes  of accidents on Block  Island.
• Mopeds may be operated from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. only.
• Passengers must ride behind the operator.