The Grand Strand has moved into its peak tourism season and the number of beachgoers showing up to areas of the beach with tents – in both areas where they are allowed and where they’re not – seems to be slowing down.
North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said public safety officials are reporting fewer visitors arriving at the beach with tents as the season goes on.
“There are fewer tents coming now,” he said. “We put the word out a lot before May and people have been coming to town, it seems like when they go home they spread the word even more.”
Some local governments voted earlier this year to ban the canopy-style tents on the beach either during a portion of the year or, in Horry County, year-round. In Myrtle Beach, tents are banned from Memorial Day to Labor Day. North Myrtle Beach and Atlantic Beach banned the tents from May 15 to Sept. 15.
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The county’s ban took effect April 16. All four jurisdictions allow umbrellas as the only shading device on the beach during the stipulated times. Tents are still allowed in Surfside Beach.
Debra Lack, vice president of sales with Lack’s Beach Service, said that while she has heard from a couple of people who are unhappy that they are not allowed to use their tents on some portions of the beach, the feedback has mostly been positive.
“It’s been a lot more pleasant than I thought it would be,” she said of having to inform people their tents weren’t allowed.
Lack’s offers beach service in parts of Myrtle Beach and the unincorporated areas of Horry County from Myrtle Beach north to North Myrtle Beach and south to Surfside Beach.
Surfside Beach lawmakers have chosen not to institute a ban on the tents – at least for now – and beachgoers last week said they were very happy town officials took that stance.
“There’s no way we could spend all day at the beach without a tent,” Shelly Boegly of Omaha said last week. She said between her family and her sister’s there are four children between 5 and 10 years old.
Area governments approved the bans saying the tents can get in the way of safety personnel and that there isn’t enough beach along some parts of the Grand Strand to accommodate all the large tent canopies.
Boegly said she understood that there could be a safety issue with rescue workers having trouble navigating their way through beach tents to get to water if someone needed help, so she usually sets her family’s tent up close to the dunes.
“I see both sides,” said Boegly’s sister Megan Gratz. “I wouldn’t want to be in the way of somebody getting help. But I don’t want my kids to get fried.”
Alina Laktionova, a lifeguard with Beach Services Limited, said there seemed to be fewer tents set up near her stand by Surfside Beach Pier during the week leading up to July Fourth than the prior week.
“I get here at 8 a.m.,” Laktionova said. “People wait for me to set up my [lifeguard stand] and ask about where they can be. There are no issues.”
Pennsylvania resident Lisa Moretz, who also has a home in the Socastee area, said last week that she has always gone to Surfside Beach with her tent when she wants to hit the sand.
She said had she typically gone to one of the other areas where the tents are banned she would have relocated to Surfside Beach.
In Myrtle Beach, Sgt. Philip Cain with the city’s beach patrol said they haven’t seen many tents this year and even with those, there have been no issues with enforcement.
“We’ve seen very few and the ones we have seen have all complied voluntarily,” he said.
Cain said he thinks the various ways in which rental properties, the city and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce worked to get the word out ahead of time made things go smoothly in the ban’s first summer.
“We might run into a couple [tents] a day, but it’s not the huge numbers we were expecting,” he said.
Roanoke, Va., residents Ricky and Cindy Poff shielded themselves from the sun under an umbrella last week near Pier 14 in tent-free Myrtle Beach.
They said they used to use a tent when their children were smaller but didn’t need one anymore.
“They definitely provide a lot more shade than an umbrella,” Ricky Poff said, saying he has come to the Grand Strand regularly for the past 30 years. “The tents usually have two or three families under them, but they don’t bother us. I think they’re just trying to sell more umbrellas.”
The use of tents on the beach has surged in recent years, and rules for them that area governments put in place a few years ago haven’t worked, which led to the bans, they say.
Government officials from each community have said verbal warnings will be given to violators, and those who continue to disobey the law will face a misdemeanor, which could be a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail.