The following editorial appeared Thursday in The (Hilton Head) Island Packet:
It’s important to protect Hilton Head Island’s beaches, but it’s also important not to overload beachgoers with regulations.
Visitors are already greeted with signs at public accesses with a large “NO” and a long list of prohibitions.
Now, Town Council is considering adding another item to the banned list: tents.
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These large canopies have been popping up in increasing numbers on our beaches. It’s easy to see why. They provide shade for large groups as well as the elderly and the very young, who need extra protection from the heat and the rays.
Granted, they can be annoying during high tide when many people are crowded together. But one of the nice things about Hilton Head’s beaches is they don’t require much walking to find a less crowded spot.
And at lower tides, there’s plenty of room on the beach for tents and umbrellas.
We can sympathize with the lifeguards who are left to haul away the tents that some inconsiderate beachgoers leave behind. Removing them can require the use of bolt cutters and can take several minutes to take down. It’s not a wise use of lifeguards’ time.
But banning them altogether is a harsh and unnecessary step. The Myrtle Beach area, which has beaches much more crowded than ours, has taken the step of banning tents. But after a year, [Horry County leaders amended the rules to provide some exceptions]. That makes for a lot of confusion for visitors and a difficult rule to enforce.
Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach all have laws that prohibit canopy-style beach tents, though rules vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Better solutions exist, and Hilton Head Town Council should consider them.
One of them appears to already be occurring, with lifeguards reminding people that if you haul it onto the beach, take it with you when you leave.
Signs could also be installed at public access points to remind people to remove their tents.
It might be worth looking into designated areas where visitors could drop off tents they don’t want.
In October, the town plans to hold a public hearing about banning the tents.
It’s a discussion worth having, since some residents have raised concerns. But more pressing problems, such as beach parking, should get the spotlight, especially in the Coligny area.
The town should tackle parking first and revisit the tents should their annoyances grow into a more serious problem.