Lisa Greenwood of Virginia didn't mind getting a visit from an officer as she lounged under a tent on a steamy Horry County beach this week.
The officer told her about new rules for tents on the beach, asking her to move hers a few feet so it wouldn't be too close to another one in case rescue workers had to bolt through there. Greenwood, who enjoys using a tent on the beach to take breaks from the sun, didn't mind.
"Hey, we'll move them back," she said. "As long as we can still put them up. Just don't take our tents away."
This is the first summer for new tent rules along Grand Strand beaches, and Horry County and North Myrtle Beach officers have been busy spreading the word amid a sea of colorful canopies that, at times last summer, nearly blanketed some parts of the beach and made it tough for lifeguards to see and emergency workers to maneuver around them. Tents aren't a big problem in Myrtle Beach, officials have said.
Several beachgoers who were using tents to keep themselves from burning, shield children or give them a place to take a break from the sun during their all-day beach excursion this week said they didn't know about the rules, but didn't mind them once they were told. Most were just glad the rules didn't ban tents from the beach completely, as some officials had initially proposed.
"We learned them today," Kenneth Hudson of Morganton, N.C., said after an Horry County officer stopped by the tent hours earlier to show them how to properly anchor the tent - their anchor lines were sticking out from the tent instead of being flush with it.
"We don't mind as long as we know the rules," Denise Hudson said. "It doesn't bother us."
The new rules aim to create enough space around the tents so that rescue workers and vehicles can get to emergencies without being blocked by the tents, an issue that emerged last year as the tents' popularity soared.
The section of beach in Horry County by the campgrounds, where the Hudsons and Greenwood lounged last week, is one of the most crowded spots, as is North Myrtle Beach.
North Myrtle Beach considered banning the tents after last summer, but late last year adopted rules to govern them instead. Other area governments, including Horry County, Surfside Beach and Myrtle Beach followed, all approving roughly the same rules aiming to avoid confusion among beachgoers.
Now, beachgoers can't use tents larger than 12 feet by 12 feet, must set them up on the land side of the lifeguard's umbrella line and be at least 10 feet away from another tent. They must secure them with lines that don't stick out from the tent's borders. Tents can't go up before 8 a.m. and must be down by 7 p.m.
Spreading the word about the new rules is the focus this summer, officials said.
Three Horry County school resource officers converted to beach patrol to help while school is out for the summer, Lt. Jack Stewart said. Violators in Horry County or North Myrtle Beach could face a $250 fine, but officers aren't focused on handing out tickets, officials said.
"This summer will be a training period," Stewart said. "We are kind of treating it as a learning curve right now."
Officials have tried to spread the word, with beach patrol officers talking to local hoteliers urging them to tell guests about the new rules as they check in.
Ocean Lakes Family Campground, where the beaches are filled with tents, warned customers in its spring newsletter that changes were coming as area officials weighed solutions to the tent problem.
"The debate spawned a lot of questions for several months," Ocean Lakes spokeswoman Barb Krumm said. "It was a big concern for them."
The biggest fear was that the tents would be banned, Krumm said, adding that copies of the new rules are on the check-in counters at the campground.
The word didn't get out to several tent users on the beach near the campground last week. Some vaguely remembered seeing something about the rules on the campground's TV channel, but others hadn't heard of them at all.
"We were just excited to get here," Jerri Tate of Tennessee said as she hung a wet T-shirt on her tent to dry.
In North Myrtle Beach, officials have distributed 10,000 magnets listing the rules for rental properties to post on refrigerators in the units, and sent two newsletters including information about the rules to property owners, city spokesman Pat Dowling said. The rules also are shown on the city's TV channel and website.
Most tent users abide by the rules once they are told about them, he said.
"It's going very well, actually," Dowling said. "When they come out the next day [after being told the rules] they are in adherence with the law."
Back on the south end, Horry County officers can easily drive vehicles along an alley close to the dunes, which a year ago was regularly blocked by tents.
"We've already had to shoot down that alley twice [today]," Stewart said about 1 p.m. Monday. "It's all in the name of safety."
Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296.