A big thank you is due to all who worked to make Memorial Day weekend a safer experience this year. Long-time residents can recall the days when the Myrtle Beach area was host to a fun, family-friendly weekend of picnics, barbecues and patriotic celebrations. The community was awash in red, white and blue, and the loudest noises were the sounds of firecrackers and 21-gun salutes. In recent years, as the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest grew in attendance, so, too, did the presence of gangs and rowdy visitors who refused to respect our community and its laws.
That’s not to suggest that bikes, or bikers, are the problem. The Grand Strand remains a welcoming destination for all who journey here to enjoy the many amenities we offer - so long as they follow our laws and respect our community. We host thousands of law-abiding motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the year. Unfortunately, it only takes a few lawbreakers to ruin the experience for everyone, and this has been all-too-common during recent Memorial Day weekends.
Three years ago, our community reached a tipping point. Crime, lawlessness and unacceptable behavior led to chaos and confusion, and we received a black eye of negative national publicity. Residents and business owners, fed up with the situation, declared “enough is enough.”
Our local governments took decisive action, assembling a detailed plan of increased law enforcement, enhanced crowd control and improved traffic flow. The business community stepped up, helping to provide funds for additional police officers and hotel rooms to house them. This plan isn’t popular with everyone, but the results speak for themselves. Whereas in past years, we frequently witnessed large, uncontrollable street parties and countless examples of unlawful behavior, today the situation is beginning to change.
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While significant progress has been made, we must remain vigilant. For those who yearn for a calm, peaceful weekend like what our neighboring communities enjoy, much remains to be done. But we can pause to reflect upon the impactful leadership and dedicated service that is moving us beyond the problems of our past.
The public safety personnel – police, fire, first responders and others – who served valiantly this past weekend are to be commended. Local government leaders have demonstrated an impressive degree of collaboration and coordination. State agencies continue to provide necessary service and support. Local businesses and their employees are making the best of a challenging situation. And, many residents have patiently endured the noise, crowds and a 23-mile traffic loop.
The goal set forth three years ago was to address some very serious problems and make Memorial Day weekend a safer, less chaotic experience. It’s too early to declare “mission accomplished,” but it’s never too soon to say “thank you” to those who have labored to help save lives and move our community forward.
The writer is president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.