A possible ban on beach tents in Myrtle Beach will be sent to the Coastal Alliance, a group that represents cities and towns along the Grand Strand and Horry County, for consideration.
The Myrtle Beach City Council decided during a workshop Tuesday morning that any ban on beach tents should be considered by the alliance to attempt to have continuity among the beaches.
At the request of city beach service franchisees, which rent umbrellas and chairs to beachgoers as well as provide lifeguard services, the city’s Beach Advisory Committee voted last month to request the council place a ban on all tents from May 1 to Labor Day. Beach service owners say the tents provide a safety hazard when crews need to get to the water to render aid.
“In some areas, the tents are causing a problem,” said George Lack of Lack’s Beach Service at the June 26 committee meeting. “If you can’t get the people down there [to help], that’s a problem. … How many times do I have to fly by the seat of my britches to get this thing to work?”
Three years ago, Myrtle Beach came in line with Horry County and North Myrtle Beach by adding restrictions to allowing tents on the beach. The rules 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.
Under the current law, 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.
But beach officials said enforcement has been an issue.
“It distracts the lifeguard from watching the water,” said Skeeter Nash, chairman of the Beach Advisory Committee, on Tuesday. “Our main goal is to keep our beaches safe and clean.”
Sgt. Philip Cain with the city’s beach patrol said people who use tents instead of umbrellas tend to take up more space on the beach, which he said is an issue.
“In certain areas, it does cause overcrowding,” he said. “People sit outside the tents and it doubles the area they use.”
Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said she sees the need for a larger shaded area than umbrellas can provide.
“An umbrella doesn’t give you the same amount of coverage,” she said. “If you have small children, if you have a baby, you need more coverage than an umbrella can provide.”
Lack said it would take about two and a half umbrellas to cover the same area that a tent would.
“Some people say we’re doing this for our own economic gain,” he said. “But we’re still setting up the same number of umbrellas we were in 2008 and 2009.”
The next Coastal Alliance meeting is scheduled for Aug. 7.