Myrtle Beach may ban beach tents in three areas

Beach tents could be banned in sections of beaches along the Grand Strand because officials say erosion has wiped out so much beach in certain spots there simply isn’t room for the large canopies.

North Myrtle Beach is set to take a first vote Monday on prohibiting the tents in three areas along the city’s coastline, while Myrtle Beach leaders plan to talk early next year about how to manage the tents, though a meeting date hasn’t yet been set. Horry County hasn’t talked about revisiting its rules, spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier said.

Officials say the rules are working in some areas, but other areas are still too crammed -- especially at high tide and where erosion has been particularly bad. That can create problems for emergency workers trying to maneuver around the canopies.

Several leaders say banning the tents in specific spots where there’s not enough room for them could be the solution.

“Something has to be done,” said George Lack of Lack’s Beach Service.

The popularity of beach tents has soared in recent years, sparking local governments to create the first set of rules for them about three years ago aiming to ensure that safety vehicles have room to maneuver around the tents and that they aren’t blocking lifeguards. Tents can’t be larger than 12 feet by 12 feet, can’t go up before 8 a.m. and can’t be too close to an adjacent tent.

Some areas are still too crammed with canopies, such as by the campgrounds on the south end, parts of Myrtle Beach and the three areas in North Myrtle Beach where city officials say erosion has left the beach too small to accommodate them, officials said.

North Myrtle Beach is considering banning the tents in three areas:

In the Windy Hill section from 45th Avenue South to 48th Avenue South to the south side of North Beach Plantation

In the Crescent Beach section from 16th Avenue South to 18th Avenue South

In the Cherry Grove section from 21st Avenue North to 39th Avenue North

Even if the North Myrtle Beach City Council votes to ban tents in those areas, umbrellas will still be allowed because they don’t take up as much room as the tents, city spokesman Pat Dowling said. The council must vote favorably for the change twice before it would take effect.

“It’s just physically impossible to support the use of tents at high tide [on some parts of the beach],” Dowling said. “The tents don’t work there. They take up a lot of space, and there’s just not a lot of space at high tide. It’s just a matter of geography, really.

“There’s still all kinds of beach to use for the tents.”

Some beachgoers say tents are a must-have for them, to shield themselves and their children from the sun during day long outings in the sand.

Officials say some tent users are setting up the tent, then putting their chairs, games and towels outside the tent, taking up even more space. Combine that with the marked-off lane for emergency access, the space required between tents and a lot of tents in a small space and “it doesn’t take long for that beach to be completely taken over,” Lack said.

Teaching tourists about the rules also takes effort, with North Myrtle Beach putting refrigerator magnets listing the rules in rental properties and some businesses sending letters about the rules to guests before the summer.

But beach service officials say they still spend a lot of time explaining the rules to tent users, a never-ending process in the summer as new tourists arrive each week, many not knowing the rules. Horry County shifts school resource officers to beach patrol during the summer to help out with the beach crowds, and Lack said they also help if tent users get too confrontational.

Myrtle Beach leaders talked during the summer about the growing tent problem in certain areas, with some recommending banning tents in the city’s hotel district.

“It is something that is going to need some more conversation,” Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said. “The tents take up a lot of real estate. More people could enjoy the beach with fewer tents.”

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said last week he isn’t sure what the city will do to handle the tents, but that it must do something, especially as the popularity of the tents grows.

“It’s crowded, especially where the people have a tent and they sit outside the tent,” he said. “It’s something we have to address again at the early part of the year. It is an issue and it is not going away any time soon.”

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