North Myrtle Beach to revisit part of beach tent rules

dbryant@thesunnews.comOctober 5, 2012 

Rules for those popular beach tents that have popped up more and more during the past few summers might be tweaked again in one part of the Grand Strand.

North Myrtle Beach plans to revisit the rule requiring that beach tents be at least 10 feet away from each other, saying it’s too hard to enforce and the city doesn’t want its lifeguards spending too much time on it.

“We don’t want them to have to deal with matters like that,” city spokesman Pat Dowling said, adding that the lifeguards’ only job is to protect the safety of swimmers, not set up beach chairs and umbrellas. “It’s very hard to enforce a 10-foot separation rule.”

The City Council could shorten the distance required between tents to 5 feet, do away with any distance requirement, keep it as it is or come up with some other solution. The council plans to tackle the tent issue during the off-season, but hasn’t set a specific date to discuss it.

“We haven’t reached any conclusions yet,” Dowling said.

North Myrtle Beach was the first city along the Grand Strand to establish rules for beach tents, but the others quickly followed as concerns grew about the tents crammed together on the beach potentially blocking emergency workers.

In early 2011, Horry County and several towns tried to craft the same beach rules, including those for tents, aiming to minimize confusion among visitors who don’t know where one city’s jurisdiction starts on the beach and another ends.

But other governments aren’t likely to follow North Myrtle Beach’s lead this time. Horry County, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach said the tent rules are working well in those areas and they don’t plan any tweaking.

The tent rules have just wrapped up their second summer, and officials said most beach-goers abided by them -- once they were told what they were. The education process repeats itself every Sunday or Monday when the new batch of tourists typically arrive for their usual weeklong stay. North Myrtle Beach put magnets on the refrigerators in rental units in the city listing the beach rules, but lifeguards still had to explain them to beach-goers at the start of their vacations.

The city received several calls during the summer from beach-goers saying they had to abide by the 10-foot rule but noticed that others did not, Dowling said.

“We don’t have the numbers to go and measure every tent,” Dowling said, adding that the city isn’t likely to spend money hiring workers to enforce tent rules. The city, which has nine miles of beach, has about 104 lifeguards who work from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“It’s very hard to enforce a 10-foot separation,” Dowling said.

Beach-goers shouldn’t worry about losing the right to use tents, though. While North Myrtle Beach initially considered banning tents two years ago before deciding to regulate them instead, that’s not on the table this time, Dowling said.

Here’s a refresher on the current rules: 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.

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at or follow her at

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