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Uniform beach rules near along Grand Strand

The proposal to make rules the same along all Grand Strand beaches made it through a Myrtle Beach committee Wednesday, though the piece that would limit water activity around the piers is getting a second look.

Beach Patrol and beach franchise operators will measure the proposed 150 yards around the piers where swimming and other water activity would be prohibited after some members of the city's Beach Advisory Committee said the off-limits area is too large.

Myrtle Beach's rule now restricts water activity within 50 yards, or 150 feet, of piers, and Horry County restricts it within 400 feet.

Philip Cain of the city's Beach Patrol plans to finalize a distance by the end of the week, and told the committee Wednesday that there needs to be at least a 100-yard zone around the piers where water activities aren't allowed to protect swimmers and others in the water.

"We want them to be safe," Cain said. "We don't want them to get caught up in fishing line."

The sticking point didn't stop the committee from recommending that the City Council approve the proposed regulations, with the distance around the piers to be added after Cain's research. Officials aim to have the rules in place by the time tourists start rolling in for the summer, prompting Wednesday's special meeting of the Beach Advisory Committee.

The Coastal Alliance, a group of area mayors and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice, last week endorsed the proposed set of 23 rules that regulate everything from tents to dogs on the beach.

The alliance can't set the rules, only recommend that Horry County and each city council approve them.

The goal is to have the same rules along all Grand Strand beaches so locals and tourists aren't confused about what's allowed where. Now, each city and the county have separate rules, though some of them overlap.

"It's great we've gotten some collaboration up and down the Strand," said Pete Pearce, a member of Myrtle Beach's Beach Advisory Committee.

Rules for beach tents have dominated many of the conversations about making the rules the same. Safety personnel have said the tents have created problems - they have become so popular that they nearly blanket the beach in some areas, especially around the campgrounds in between Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

If approved, tents would not be allowed on the ocean side of the established umbrella line, couldn't set up before 8 a.m., must be down by 7 p.m. and would have to be 10 feet away from another tent. The rules are patterned after the tent rules approved last year by North Myrtle Beach.

"This is a good start," said Steve Taylor, a Beach Advisory Committee member. "We've addressed it as best we can at this point."

Some beach franchise owners said they wanted the tents banned, but agreed to try these rules and see if it helps with the problems. North Myrtle Beach considered banning tents last year, but instead adopted rules for them.

"I would prefer to see them outlawed, but I can tell you that isn't going to happen at this time," said George Lack of Lack's Beach Service. "We've got to have something to start with."

Myrtle Beach City Council will consider the proposed rules March 22. Atlantic Beach gave the plan an initial nod Tuesday night. Horry County's Committee of the Whole will get its first look at the proposed rules at 9 a.m. today, but the county isn't expected to vote on them until April, county spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.

Officials said it's crucial to spread to the word to tourists before they get here or as they check in.

"That's one of the biggest things - educate the public," said Skeeter Nash, chairman of the Beach Advisory Committee.