Ban on beach tents proposed along the Grand Strand

sjones@thesunnews.comFebruary 12, 2014 

Myrtle Beach has banned beach tents from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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Beach tents may have raised their last hurrah along the Grand Strand as members of the Coastal Alliance agreed Wednesday to seek bans on them from their respective councils.

“If we do it all together, then I think the reception will be there because of the safety issue,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, chairman of the alliance, which includes representatives from Horry County, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and other cities. The alliance can agree in principle, but the governing bodies in each area must approve any changes to the existing tent rules.

The first test of the resolve to ban the tents will come at the North Myrtle Beach City Council meeting Monday night. A proposed ban has already been presented to the council there, and members took no action pending a recommendation from the alliance.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said other alliance members will be watching the vote closely.

“We’re going to kind of follow North Myrtle Beach,” Lazarus said of the county’s path to a possible ban.

The potential ban is the latest strategy officials have come up with in recent years to handle the growing use of tents on Grand Strand beaches, which they say can get in the way of emergency personnel. Tent users say they need the shade during their daylong trips to the beach.

Under the current laws along the Grand Strand, beachgoers can’t use tents larger than 12 feet-by-12 feet, have to set them up on the land side of the lifeguard’s umbrella line and be at least 10 feet away from another tent. 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.

Lifeguards have said they spent a lot of time explaining the rules to the new rounds of tourists each week during the summer.

Lazarus said he will propose an ordinance that will mirror what North Myrtle Beach considers and present it to County Council members at a workshop in two weeks. Lazarus said he will have staff from the county’s Public Safety department talk about some of the problems with the plethora of tents.

The main problem Lazarus sees is one of access to the beach by public safety officials.

He said that at high tide, there may be only six feet to eight feet of beach above water and tents create an impassable blockade if someone needs emergency assistance.

He said there already are so many beach tents that county officials are spending more time dealing with the problems they cause instead of other things they should be doing.

Rhodes said the problem goes beyond public safety.

Some people set up charcoal grills at their beach tents. He said there have even reports of people stringing hoses from campgrounds to their beach tents to fill up child swimming pools on the beach.

Lazarus said it’s increasingly common that vacationers will set up tents as soon as they are legally allowed after they arrive. They won’t take them down for their entire visit, he said. And more than a few leave them on the beach when they go home.

“It’s getting worse,” he said.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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