Myrtle Beach Bans Tents But Not Good Times

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Slather on some extra sunblock, beachgoers. Myrtle Beach City Council saw you coming from a mile away. You were going to drive down on Memorial Day, lug your thirteen-foot aluminum tent onto the beach, fill it with chairs, coolers, surfboards, little Timmy’s favorite SpongeBob towel, and all of the friends and family that thing could possibly fit. You’ll have to rethink that plan this summer, though, after the city passed a ban on beach tents from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The City Council voted five to one to sign the ban into law on the grounds that the surge in Myrtle Beach tourism in recent years and the overwhelming number of large tents means the beaches are overcrowded. Not only does a wall of canopies make the beach less fun for everyone, but it also makes it hard for lifeguards and emergency vehicles to get through to the people who need their help.

The dissenting Council member cited the fact that babies and the elderly need extra protection from the sun and suggested that shades shorter than eight feet be allowed for those special situations. Several members of the Council agreed that it could be bad business for Myrtle Beach not to cater to families and considered alternative ideas. In the end, the accepted law bans everything but umbrellas smaller than nine feet in diameter.

The City of North Myrtle Beach has the same rules in effect, but there’s some concern that tourists will be confused if different beaches have different bans. Now Horry County, which encompasses both Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, is thinking about an all-out county ban that would make matters even worse for people who crave vast expanses of beach shade but would keep the law consistent and easier to explain and understand for those just visiting Myrtle Beach for a short period of time.

Those who agree with the ban say they oftentimes see tents sitting empty all day or being used to reserve a spot for later while families who have shown up early to the beach are left to fight for less-desirable space.  Ordinances like the ones in Myrtle Beach are already in place on beaches along the New Jersey and New York shores. Lifeguards and police will give a warning before issuing fines or jail time, which could be as much as $500 or 30 days. 

There’s still hours of fun to be had at Myrtle Beach area beaches with a little planning, though. Rash guards, cover-ups, wide-brimmed hats, more sunscreen, and yes, even a beach umbrella will keep you protected from the sun and still give everyone a good view of the water. 

(posted 3/27/14)