Beach tent rules up for more discussion in Myrtle Beach

dbryant@thesunnews.comJune 2, 2013 

Rules for tent and umbrella usage on the beach is being looked at as summer sets in on the Grand Strand. Here beachgoers enjoy the weather near Pier 14 in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, May 30, 2013. Photo by Janet Blackmon Morgan / jblackmon@thesunnews.com

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

— Just when you thought tent use on the beach had been reined in, another problem has popped up in parts of Myrtle Beach: Erosion in some spots has literally wiped away room for them.

The south end of Myrtle Beach – from about Second Avenue Pier south to the end of the city limits – has been hit hard during the past two winters by erosion, leaving a beach too narrow to handle all the tents, keep an open lane near the dunes for emergency vehicles and maintain the required open 10 feet between the canopies, officials said.

“You start marking off all those spaces and it gets really tight,” said George Lack with Lack’s Beach Service. “It’s just everybody wanting their piece of [the beach], but there’s more of them and the beach has gotten smaller. ... It’s hard to enforce [the tent rules] because there’s not enough room for 10 feet this way, 10 feet that way.”

The issue has Myrtle Beach again discussing how to handle the tents, just three years after joining Horry County and North Myrtle Beach in approving rules that had mostly fixed the issues for safety workers that had surfaced as the tents’ popularity soared. Though the colorful canopies still blanket the beaches, the rules have created lanes for emergency workers and pushed the tents behind the lifeguards so the structures don’t get in the way of the lifeguards’ view of the water.

Any change to the tent rules in Myrtle Beach would take effect next summer, not this summer because the tourist season already is gearing up, officials said.

Horry County and North Myrtle Beach don’t plan to change their tent rules, saying they’re working well in their parts of the coastline, including by the campgrounds and in Garden City Beach.

Some Myrtle Beach leaders have proposed putting a moratorium on tents in Myrtle Beach’s hotel districts until the beach can be built back up, either naturally or through renourishment. That would mean no tents from Springmaid Beach Resort north to roughly 30th Avenue North and by the hotels on the north end of the Myrtle Beach city limits.

“It wouldn’t be a permanent ban,” Lack said.

And that likely won’t be the only option Myrtle Beach leaders consider.

Myrtle Beach leaders say they want to stay on top of issues that emerge with the tents, especially as the popularity of the tents continues to grow, becoming as much a must-have for some beachgoers as a towel and sunscreen. The city’s Beach Advisory Committee is set to discuss the issue at its next meeting at 2 p.m. June 26 at City Hall.

“Now you’ve got everybody going to Wal-Mart buying tents,” said Skeeter Nash, chairman of the city’s Beach Advisory Committee. “It’s become a bigger issue and we want to look into it.”

Any recommendations for rule changes would be sent to the City Council, which would have the final say.

“Nothing is going to be done this summer,” said P.G. Winstead, a Beach Advisory Committee member. “It’s just something we are going to have to keep a handle on.”

Grand Strand governments created the first set of rules for tents on the beaches about three years ago, and after two summers, say they’ve mostly fixed the problems the tents had created for safety workers.

“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt about that,” said Bill Bigham, an owner of Beach Services Ltd. that works the Garden City Beach and Surfside Beach areas. “It’s probably working as smooth as it can be.”

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, except in North Myrtle Beach, which did away with that 10-foot rule last fall. Tent users must secure the tents 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.

Beach workers spend a lot of time explaining the rules to tent users, another concern for some officials in Myrtle Beach. Winstead said explaining the rules to an ever-changing tourist population is taking lifeguards away from their other duties.

On Horry County beaches such as Garden City and by the campgrounds, school resource officers shifted to the sand for the summer help take the burden of explaining the rules off the lifeguards, Lack said.

“They have the time to really sit and hold everybody’s hand and make it easy,” he said, adding that in the county the tent rules are “working very, very well.”

North Myrtle Beach has tried to educate beachgoers about the tent rules through magnets on refrigerators in rental units, but there will always be those first-time visitors who will need a refresher on the rules as they pitch their tent in the sand, city spokesman Pat Dowling said.

“Every week is a new education process,” he said.

North Myrtle Beach tweaked its tent rules by dropping the requirement that a tent be at least 10 feet away from another tent because it was hard to enforce and “really unnecessary in most locations,” Dowling said.

While North Myrtle Beach isn’t planning to make any other changes to the tent rules, they are likely to evolve as the use of the tents do.

“This is one of those beach ordinances that is always open to adjustment,” Dowling said. “No ordinance is perfect for controlling what happens on the beach, but we think it’s the best we’ve got.”

Contact DAWN BRYANT at 626-0296 or at dbryant@thesunnews.com or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_dawnbryant.

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