I have an interest in the current four-post tent on the beach controversy, so I decided to do an on-site investigation of my own with my wife recently. We began walking the beach at the end of S.C. 544 northward for approximately 2 miles and back. It was very plain to see that there were no four-post tents in front of any of the lifeguard stations, and the only umbrellas seen in front of the lifeguard stations was those covering carts being pushed by foreign students selling frozen lemonade. (Why are they the only vendors on the beach?)
In any case, I spoke with two lifeguards who told me that there is an occasional problem with persons putting their tents that obstruct their view, but they call their supervisors, who talk to the people about the public safety issues involved, and the tents are moved.
I am all in favor of keeping the beach safe for families since our two sons and four granddaughters visit a week every year, and we all sit under our four-post tent so that the children have a place to rest and stay out of the sun for a while. With the growing increase of melanoma, it occurred to me that my public safety issue is to have my family enjoy the beach and take all precautions to prevent any of them from getting skin cancer. The annual visit and the mornings on the beach are a tradition in our family and one of the reasons my wife and I recently relocated here permanently.
If this is such a grave problem, why haven't the public officials, including the elected local officials, provided any public statistical information detailing the number of tent incidents, the number of serious injuries as the result of tents blocking lifeguard stations and the costs to the municipalities to haul away tents? Surely if this is such a serious problem, the incidents have all been documented. I haven't heard or seen anything of this nature on TV, on the radio or in the newspapers.
This appears to me to be a knee-jerk reaction to the small percentage of irresponsible and apathetic tourists who only care about their time at the beach; whether that means shaking their towels out in the middle of the beach, putting their tents wherever they please, turning their radios to their favorite music station for everyone's enjoyment and making sure they can smoke their most putrid-smelling cigars right next to their neighbors.
I think a total ban on four-post tents will have much of the same effect as the restrictions on the bikers' weeks. The tent people will find another beach where they aren't restricted, and the condos and restaurants will lose customers.
My recommendation is find specifically if this is a major problem, and then look for ways to resolve that problem without chasing away tourists and the business that comes with them. I would think that legal postings on the beach along with a pamphlet handed to each tourist when they check in explaining that four-post tents are restricted behind lifeguard stations along with designated areas in the beach reserved for emergency vehicles would be appropriate. The pamphlet would explain that a warning to move the tent would be given for the first offense and that a second offense would result in a $500 fine.
I have always believed that one should take the least restrictive action first and see if that solves the problem rather than the most radical restriction. I also believe the cost/benefits should be considered. Rather than jump to an errant action, it is definitely better to consider all alternatives first.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.