Roy Carpenter’s Beach in Matunuck, Rhode Island, is an unpretentious beach community composed of 377
cottages on about 50 acres of land. It is a model of the way life at the shore in New England as it used to be:
modest and inconspicuous, in recognition of the power of the sea. It is one of few remaining places along the
New England shore where life is simple, and the luxury of being there is the reward. To while away an hour or
day in this generous little community is to lose all track of the time. Yet it is on a collision course with the
ongoing series of coastal storms and hurricanes that are wearing away its shoreline.
The community has existed since the 1920’s, first as a tent community. After the 1938 hurricane, it evolved into
a cottage community of very modest means. Most cottages are shelters that have been passed from generation
to generation, where so-called regular people summer, enjoying the pleasures of the shore, away from the city.
Life-long friendships, marriages and all manner of relationships can be traced back to this community. It is a
safe, delicious spot to raise kids, with its many rituals and traditions that mark the summers. Where else, over
the course of a summer, can you reliably have a cakewalk, field day, July Fourth Pots and Pans Parade,
Christmas in August, a tag sale, a penny social and a shaving crème war?
Concurrent with this hypnotic way of life, the community has been losing its shoreline. Between 1939 and 2006,
100 feet of its coast disappeared, as the beach retreated inland as a result of periodic storms, hurricanes and
northeasters. Gone are the large beachfront parking lot, a shore road, and the wide, sandy beach. The general
store was moved 100 feet back from the shore in 2005 and is once again, sitting on the beach that has receded
another 100 feet since its re-siting. Clearly sweet summer reveries at Roy’s are numbered, limited by the ever-
increasing ferocity of ordinary, day-to-day wear-and-tear from increasing frequency of storms. Add sea level rise
to that, and tidal surge with the occasional hurricane and the future looks grim.