By way of context, I live in Horry County but have a Myrtle Beach address. As strange as it may seem, my first swim in the Atlantic Ocean this year was at Cocoa Beach, Florida on June 27.
I live about six miles from the ocean here in Myrtle Beach but have found myself avoiding the ocean in Myrtle Beach due to a number of factors. But without doubt, the one factor that started me down the avoidance path was the recently enacted policy regarding paid parking at beach access areas near streets that I call the 60’s. In particular, I would often enjoy a couple of hours on a weekend morning using the free beach access parking at 62nd Street. That has all changed and it took a visit to Cocoa Beach for me to better understand my hesitation to fork out $10 for a couple hours or less of beach activity here in Myrtle Beach.
Cocoa Beach also charges for parking. It cost me $15 dollars to park near the beach. And you pay at a kiosk similar to here in Myrtle Beach. But there are other differences. For one, as I entered the parking area, it was attended. There are real people there to assist as needed. There are also facilities available that come with the fee, such as a changing room with showers and toilet facilities. I also noticed that there is ample parking and, of course, very easy access to the beach.
As I walked with my granddaughter on the pathway to the beach itself, I couldn’t help but notice a lifeguard station very close by and manned by not one, but two life guards. Due to curiosity, I approached the guards and asked if they were professionally-trained. They answered very quickly in the affirmative, and there was absolutely no activity related to rental of beach umbrellas, chairs, or other such beach items. Nearby were other lifeguard stations that were also adequately manned. It was comforting to see this amount of concern for water safety and rescue.
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In conclusion, the money I spent provided a good value in terms of access, public safety, and convenience. Beach parking at Myrtle Beach offers paid access, but it is sorely lacking in public safety and convenience.
Cocoa Beach seems to have hit the right chord in terms of economic value and common sense. I suggest that our local leaders think more carefully about public safety and convenience in connection with beach parking fees, and even visit other beach communities to evaluate best practices for supporting tourists and residents alike.
And, yes, it did very much have a "family" feel to it. I felt safe, comfortable and appreciated while visiting Cocoa Beach. Not so here!
The writer lives in Horry County.