North Myrtle Beach to talk more about solution to tents on the beach, including possible ban

dbryant@thesunnews.comDecember 16, 2013 

Photo by Steve Jessmore

STEVE JESSMORE — The Sun News Buy Photo

North Myrtle Beach will take a closer look at how to handle tents on the beach, including options such as banning them completely on the city’s beaches except in the residential area.

City Council voted 5-2 Monday night against a plan to ban tents in three areas of beach where erosion has made the beach too small to handle all the canopies, with some council members saying that banning them in just those areas might just shift the problem to other parts of the beach and create confusion among beach-goers on where the tents are allowed.

But the council does want to take some action before the summer to handle the surging popularity of tents, which officials say can crowd beaches and make it difficult for emergency personnel to maneuver around them.

The council asked city staff to bring the issue back to the council early next year, with some of the options to be considered including a complete ban on tents on beaches in North Myrtle Beach except in the residential area or banning them in just the three areas suggested. The city aims to take action before the tourist season kicks in for the summer. Myrtle Beach also aims to revisit its rules early next year.

“A decision is going to have to be made,” North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley said. “It’s a problem throughout the entire Grand Strand. It is something we are going to have to make a decision on.”

The popularity of beach tents has soared in recent years, sparking local governments including North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Horry County to create the first set of rules for them about three years ago aiming to ensure that safety vehicles have room to maneuver around the tents and that they aren’t blocking lifeguards. Tents can’t be larger than 12 feet by 12 feet, can’t go up before 8 a.m. and can’t be too close to an adjacent tent.

Officials have said that the rules have fixed the issues in most areas, but some areas are still too crammed with canopies, such as by the campgrounds on the south end, parts of Myrtle Beach and the three areas in North Myrtle Beach where city officials say erosion has left the beach too small to accommodate them.

Hatley said the goal is to make sure lifeguards and emergency workers can get through all the tents.

“The main concern here is safety,” she said.

Myrtle Beach also plans to revisit its rules early next year, though a meeting date hasn’t yet been set. The issue also is likely to be discussed by the Coastal Alliance, a group of mayors and Horry County leaders. The Coastal Alliance has talked previously about tent rules, adding the goal was to keep the rules mostly the same across city lines to limit confusion among tent users, who might not be clear where one city’s jurisdiction ends and another begins.

Beach service officials along the Grand Strand say they still spend a lot of time explaining the rules to tent users, a never-ending process in the summer as new tourists arrive each week, many not knowing the rules.

North Myrtle Beach initially considered banning tents on the beach roughly three years ago, but opted to create rules for them instead after a backlash from some beachgoers, who say they need the tents to shade them and their children during long days on the beach.

“We’ve kicked this can down the road before,” Hatley said. “It was almost impossible to enforce, eventually people just ignored it.”

The first vote Monday would have banned the tents in three areas where officials said erosion has been so bad there simply isn’t enough room for the tents: In the Windy Hill section from 45th Avenue South to 48th Avenue South to the south side of North Beach Plantation; in the Crescent Beach section from 16th Avenue South to 18th Avenue South and in the Cherry Grove section from 21st Avenue North to 39th Avenue North.

“The North Myrtle Beach visitor population continues to grow each year, as does the popularity and affordability of beach tents,” Dowling said. “The problem is, space on the beach does not grow.”

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

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