Antigua resident Barbara Young went out of town to visit an ailing family member for about seven months and when she returned she said she was shocked to see the roof of the gazebo where usually she sat to enjoy the beach was gone.
The covered sitting area at the 79th Avenue North beach access was removed by Myrtle Beach city staff in the spring during routine upkeep, assistant city manager Ron Andrews said.
Young said the gazebo was the only way she could enjoy the beach during the heat of the summer.
“For me to enjoy the beach – I’m an above-the-knee amputee – so it’s difficult for me to walk on the beach,” she said. “I need the gazebo.”
Since the gazebo came down, residents in the nearby neighborhoods have met with city staff, requesting that they replace the roof. Andrews said it would be up to Myrtle Beach City Council if it wants the city to fund a new covering for the sitting area.
“The staff recommendation is that the city doesn’t pay to put the gazebo there,” Andrews said.
Andrews said, while this beach access is unique, using public money to replace the gazebo could set a bad precedent. City spokesman Mark Kruea said he’s not sure residents along the coast would all ask covered structures be built at nearby beach accesses.
“I would expect it to be an isolated incident,” Kruea said. “[Beach accesses] vary. … You couldn’t do that at every one nor would everyone want [a gazebo].”
Residents say the gazebo at 79th Avenue North provided much needed shade to elderly beachgoers or people with young children or disabilities.
“There was a need that was seen a long time ago,” said Antigua resident Laurel Powell. “It’s the only shaded gazebo on the north end. It’s a place where people who can’t take the direct sun can still experience the beach.”
The city constructed the gazebo in 1991 when residents of the Northwoods neighborhood and the surrounding area donated $800 to build and maintain the structure, Andrews said.
Every year, the city upgrades four or five of the more than 100 public beach accesses throughout Myrtle Beach as money is available in the budget, Andrews said.
Andrews said when crews went to inspect the 79th Avenue North beach access, they could see straight through the roof.
“I concluded that it was unsafe,” he said.
Andrews said there had been a few complaints that the gazebo was causing a nuisance, with people using it improperly at night. Powell said she did not know of any police reports detailing negative activities occurring in the gazebo, but said residents who live nearby expressed concerns about homeless people and others using the structure at night.
“Nobody wants anyone down here to feel unsafe,” she said. “We want to work together to solve the issues for everyone. So we can have a beach access that’s shaded, handicapped accessible and safe at night.”
If City Council decides to consider the issue, it could be on the agenda as soon as Jan. 14.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.