Baby tents may soon become an exception to the rule banning tents on the shores of North Myrtle Beach as other Grand Strand communities have started to look the other way as well for infant shelters.
Laws against beach tents were put on the books in Horry County and four cities in recent years along the Grand Strand to aid in public safety, clearing the ocean view for lifeguards, beach patrols and visitors and clearing the way for first responders rushing to emergencies. But the laws have started to change since their adoption as cities hear from beachgoers seeking to keep their little ones in the shade.
The North Myrtle Beach City Council unanimously passed this week first reading of an ordinance amending the beach tent ban to allow baby tents.
Under the proposed change, tents no more than 31 inches tall, 31-and-a-half inches wide and 38 inches deep can be used to shade babies no older than 18 months.
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“The reason that we sort of chose 18 months as the maximum was because by that time the vast majority of kids are walking and it’s harder and harder to contain them,” North Myrtle Beach spokesman Pat Dowling said.
The baby tents amendment will become law if it passes a second reading Feb. 1.
Each year the population of tents grew and grew and grew … and (public safety) response times were challenged.
Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach city spokesman
He said the city started looking to tweak the ban after hearing from many beachgoers who sought a small allowance to the rule. The ordinance restricting the use of tents from May 15 to Sept. 15 was signed into law in March 2014 to give police, fire and rescue personnel better access to those needing help along the beach.
“Each year the population of tents grew and grew and grew … and response times were challenged,” Dowling said.
Public safety response times in North Myrtle Beach have improved since the tents were banned, he added.
The Myrtle Beach ordinance does not allow tents of any size on beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but baby tents are not likely to be denied.
“We understand that, that need exists so if it’s an infant-sized tent … I don’t think anyone is going to object to it,” said Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea.
Tents became a hot issue as their popularity grew along Grand Strand beaches, prompting public safety officials to complain the sea of canopies blocked their view of the beach and posed hurdles on their treks to emergencies. Tents were also claiming larger chunks of prime coastal real estate as visitors jockeyed for views on crowded shorelines.
We generally don’t object to a tent that only an infant or child could use.
Mark Kruea, Myrtle Beach city spokesman
“A child tent really isn’t the reason why it was implemented,” Kruea said.
“We generally don’t object to a tent that only an infant or child could use,” he added, as long as the tent is less than three feet in dimensions.
The Coastal Alliance – a board of mayors from five municipalities and the chairman of Horry County Council – took up the tent issue in 2013 and sought to pass uniform beach rules to avoid confusing visitors. But the rules on tents have varied in certain locations.
Surfside Beach decided against banning tents. Atlantic Beach, Briarcliffe Acres, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County approved restrictions during varying times of the year. Umbrellas of a certain size are still allowed on all beaches within the county.
Horry County banned all tents and umbrellas with canopies greater than 7 feet, 6 inches in diameter at its beaches year-round in spring 2014. In March, the county revised its ban to allow child-sized pop-up tents and larger tents only for permitted special events like weddings.
In Briarcliffe Acres, certain restrictions apply to allowed tents. The shading shelters have to be 10-feet-by-10-feet or less, cannot have guide wires outside of the tent and cannot be left unattended.
Atlantic Beach followed the steps of North Myrtle Beach, banning tents from May 15 through Sept. 15.
According to the Myrtle Beach ordinance, “shading devices, other than circular umbrellas with a diameter of 7-and-a-half feet or less,” are not allowed on the beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
With changes being made to beach rules across the Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said the rules may be something the alliance should look at again at a future meeting.
Reach Weaver at 843-444-1722 or follow her on Twitter @TSNEmily.
What is allowed?
In North Myrtle Beach and Atlantic Beach, umbrellas with a center pole no more than 7-feet-6-inches tall and with a circular canopy no more than 9 feet in diameter are allowed from May 15 to Sept. 15 under current laws.
In Myrtle Beach, umbrellas with a diameter canopy of 7 feet, 6 inches or less are allowed on the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day. “From the day after Labor Day until Memorial Day, tents up to 12-by-12 feet and less than nine feet tall may be used behind the (city’s) umbrella line and 10 feet apart,” according to a city of Myrtle Beach flier.
In Horry County, child-sized pop-up tents, tents approved through special event permits and umbrellas with a circular shade no greater than 7 feet, 6 inches in diameter are allowed on the beach year-round.
In Briarcliffe Acres, tents are allowed but can be no larger than 10-feet-by-10-feet, cannot have guide wires outside of the tent and cannot be left unattended.
Tents are not banned in Surfside Beach.