Colors of the wind cue extra safety reminders at Myrtle Beach-area state parks

spalisin@thesunnews.comJune 16, 2014 

  • Safety alerts by flag color

    What | Updates on beach conditions

    Where | All four coastal S.C. state parks: Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach, Edisto Beach (south of Charleston) and Hunting Island (near Beaufort)

    Color code | With respective meanings:

    • Red (double-deck flag) with international “No swimming” logo – Water closed to public

    • Red – High hazard, with high surf, strong currents, or both

    • Yellow – Medium hazard, with moderate surf or currents, or both

    • Green – Low hazard, with calm conditions, but continued accent on caution encouraged

    • Blue – Dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish

    If you go – summer nature programs

    MYRTLE BEACH STATE PARK

    Where | on U.S. 17 Business, one mile south of Ocean Boulevard/Farrow Parkway, by south city limits, across from Seagate Village

    Open | 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

    How much | $5 ages 16 and older, $3.25 S.C. seniors, $3 ages 6-15

    Programs | Many in activity center, and most free with park admission:

    • “A Crabby Experience!” 9:30-11 a.m. Tuesdays through August on pier, a catch-and release program with hopes to see a variety of crabs, fish and other critters. $5 rental (cash and exact change appreciated) for traps, available at 9:20 a.m.; bring own bait or buy some in pier shop.

    • “Sharks!” 1-2 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 12, covering myths and truths about their value to nature.

    • “Stingray Shuffle!” 3-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 19, covering myths and truths about their value to nature.

    • “Cast Away!” 8-8:45 a.m. Wednesdays through August on beach near pier access, covering how to cast a net on the beach.

    • “From the Forest to the Sea,” 9:30-10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through August, for ages 7 and older, a maritime forest and beach stroll.

    • “Urban Sea Turtle,” 1-2 p.m. Wednesdays through August, covering sea turtles’ lives.

    • “The Tale of Ranger Abigail,” 3-3:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 6, a short film about the daily life of a Myrtle Beach State Park ranger, with safety tips.

    • “Dazzling Dragonflies,” 6:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays through August, for families with children ages 4-8.

    • “Pier Fishing,” 8-9:30 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through August, covering basics of saltwater pier fishing; bring gear or rent pole for $5, and bring or buy bait. Preregistration required at 238-0874.

    • “Seine-Sational Fun!” 9:30-10:30 a.m. Thursdays through August, from beach, by pier, with pulling of net through surf zone; anyone younger than 12 needs adult present.

    • “ ‘Leaf’ Your Mark!” art project on fabric, 1-1:45 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 7 at picnic tables outside nature center, for $3 per artwork (exact change appreciated).

    • “Jumping Jellyfish,” 3-3:30 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 21, for ages 8 and older, covering jellies’ life cycle and value to nature.

    • “Gator Gossip,” 6:30-7 p.m. Thursdays through August, with these reptiles’ background and a story for ages 4-8.

    • “Sea Turtle Patrol,” 6-7:30 a.m. Fridays through Aug. 8 from pier, joining a ranger to check for possible turtle activity on beach, and see sunrise and help pick up litter.

    • “Litter Critters,” 9:30-11 a.m. Fridays through Aug. 8, for ages 6 and older, a story about water pollution, and walk afterward.

    • “Legends of the Forest,” 1-2 p.m. Fridays through August, about the maritime forest.

    • “Park Jeopardy,” 6:30-7 p.m. Fridays through August in nature center.

    • “SpongeBob – Fact Or Fiction?” 10-11 a.m. Saturdays through Aug. 23.

    • “Feeding Time” with snake and other animals, 1-1:30 p.m. Saturdays through August in nature center.

    • “Creature Feature,” 3-3:30 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 9, a meet-and-greet with animals.

    • “State Park Secrets,” 6:30-7 p.m. Saturdays through August, a video by park rangers.

    • “Monarch Magic,” 1-1:45 p.m. Sundays from June 22 through August in nature center, covering differences between butterflies and moths.

    • “Watch Out for Turtles!” 3-3:30 p.m. Sundays from June 22 through August in nature center, story time for families with children ages 4-8.

    Nature center open | 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, and 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sundays (as of June 18)

    Also | Attend three nature programs and earn a Myrtle Beach State Park patch

    Information | 238-5325, 238-0874 (nature center) or www.myrtlebeachsp.com

    HUNTINGTON BEACH STATE PARK

    Where | on U.S. 17, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Brookgreen Gardens

    Open | 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

    How much | $5 ages 16 and older, $3.25 S.C. seniors, $3 ages 6-15

    Programs | Through August, and most for free with park admission:

    • Atalaya open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily for self-guided tours, for $2 extra fee. Docent tours at 2 p.m. Sundays-Fridays and noon Saturdays through October, free with admission to home, and optional 45-minute audio tour $4. Also, “Atalaya Ghost Tour,” 8:30-9:30 p.m. Fridays, for $3 ages 6 and older with ticket purchased at park store; bring a flashlight.

    • “Coastal Kayaking,” 10 a.m.-noon Mondays through October, in guided salt-marsh tour from Oyster Landing in Murrells Inlet, a half-mile north of park entrance. $35. Register at 235-8755 by 4 p.m. the previous Sunday.

    • “Feeding Frenzy,” 11-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays-Sundays in nature center, to see staff feed resident animals.

    • “Alligators,” 10-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 6-7 p.m. Fridays, from Atalaya, a walk to look for wildlife.

    • “Salt Marsh Seining,” noon-1 p.m. Tuesday at Oyster Landing, to look for marine life.

    • “Spineless Wonders,” 4-5 p.m. Tuesdays in nature center, covering some ocean creatures.

    • “Coastal Birding,” 10-11 a.m. Wednesdays, from causeway parking lot.

    • “Crabbing,” noon-1 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and 2-3 p.m. Saturdays, from Oyster Landing, to catch and release blue crabs, for $3 with ticket.

    • “Surf Seining,” noon-1 p.m. Thursdays, on beach in front of park store, to search for surf-zone animals.

    • “Secrets of the Salt Marsh,” 4-5 p.m. Thursdays from nature center.

    • “Beachcombing,” 10-11 a.m. Fridays from north beach parking lot.

    • “Sea Turtles,” 4-5 p.m. Fridays in nature center, covering loggerheads.

    • “Nature Prints,” 10-11 a.m. Saturdays, with fish printing and making a plaster animal track, for $3 with ticket; bring T-shirt or pillow case to print; fabric paints and paper are provided.

    • “Snakes and Reptiles,” 4-5 p.m. in nature center.

    Nature center open | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays

    Information | 237-4440, 238-5325 (nature center) or www.southcarolinaparks.com/huntingtonbeach

    Also | Friends of Huntington Beach State Park: 650-6666 or www.huntingtonbeachstatepark.com

“Colors of the Wind” was more than a hit song that Vanessa Williams made famous from the mid-1990s Disney movie “Pocahontas.”

The ocean breeze has helped add some extra safety reminders this spring for visitors to Myrtle Beach and Huntington Beach state parks, through a series of flags, which by color, reflect the ocean conditions along the shore. They might even be considered an extension in the integral role that lifeguards play with their eyes across the sands and surf, as the flags catch the view of swimmers and sun lovers hitting the beach.

A windy day might be a “red flag day,” as Ann Malys Wilson, Myrtle Beach State Park’s senior interpretive ranger, would say.

The hues of the flags, with red denoting either of the two highest hazards, yellow as medium, green as low, and blue for dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish, are posted in multiple places beyond the admissions gate of each park as well.

With schools letting out for the summer, and the heavy tourism season ready to flow across the Grand Strand, the flags’ unfurling comes at an opportune time for increased visibility and awareness about safety and the nonstop reverence the ocean commands and warrants at any time of year. Park traffic increases mightily for summer, just like the slew of nature programs available at each place for vacationers and local residents alike (see the lists nearby).

Gerald Ives, a longtime state parks ranger and director of Myrtle Beach State Park – where projects to refurbish the pier store building and Cabin 1, a Civilian Conservation Corps cabin built in the 1930s, were completed earlier this year, and eight “Animal Action” game signs were posted across the park’s three playgrounds – said he appreciates parkgoers’ interest in, and attention to, the flag signals, all put into place as of May 1. He said they also follow suit with other safety flag systems in place across Horry County in beach patrol services.

Question | How has reception been to this flag alert system and the descriptions of each color?

Answer | Wonderful. What really encourages me is I see people reading the signs. That’s what the whole entire flag system is about. It’s about education for the public. You see people reading them, and people asking questions, “Why is it yellow?” or “Why is it red?” We want people to ask those questions.

Q. | What new part do the flag alerts give in the whole equation of emphasizing safety for everyone?

A. | It’s kind of a cumulative effort. ... We’re always looking for ways to better educate our visitors. ...

The flags are very, very visible. That’s the great thing about the flag system; it’s the first thing people notice when they come to the parks. It just makes them better informed so when they go to the beach, they’re safer.

Q. | What flag has flown the most of late?

A. | Yellow – kind of middle of the pack. What’s interesting about the ocean is it always seems calm in the morning, then usually in mid-afternoon or in mid-day, the wind shifts. Also, when the tides change or the winds shift, and when the currents change, the ocean conditions can change on a whim. We’ve had to put the red flag out quite a bit in middays, when that sea breeze shifts.

Q. | What else comes with the turf of helping managing one of these two treasures we have in both state parks along the Grand Strand?

A. | I’m here every day, interacting with the visitors, and it’s truly a great feeling to hear how wonderful ... and beautiful the park is. A gentleman from Pennsylvania stopped me the other day, and it was the first time he has been here. He said he has been vacationing here for years ... and he said, “I can’t believe I missed this.” It makes me feel good ... and we want to encourage people to be safe.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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