Police, lifeguards express safety concerns over large tents used by beachgoers in Surfside Beach

Police, lifeguards express safety concerns over large tents used by beachgoers in Surfside Beach

SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - There’s a growing problem popping up along Surfside Beach: large tents.

Some believe the large tents could actually be a safety hazard for beachgoers.

As written, the town’s current beach shading devices ordinance requires residents and tourists to use canopies and tents that don’t exceed the maximum size of 10′ x 10′. And the tents are required to be at least 10-feet apart.

“Tents, canopies, cabanas or other shading devices (all referred to as “tents” herein) other than an umbrella or baby tent as defined above, shall be no larger than 10′ x 10′ and shall be allowed when placed contiguous to the town’s beach emergency lane, so long as there is at least ten (10) feet between each tent, and tents shall have straight tie-downs, and there shall be no obstructions, including beach paraphernalia, between the tents. A single row of tents from Melody Lane to 17thAvenue North shall be allowed. Emergency access locations require additional clearance guidelines as follows to accommodate emergency apparatus.” Town of Surfside, Canopy, tent requirements on beach

But enforcing this ordinance is becoming a bit harder to do because many people aren’t abiding by the rules.

Beach Services Ltd. provides lifeguard services for Surfside Beach. The manager, Garrett Todd, spoke during Tuesday’s town council meeting.

He said the large canopies and tents are becoming a huge safety issue on the beach because they’re keeping lifeguards from quickly responding to emergencies.

“When you have a wall of canopies it’s very difficult to find your victims in the water and on the beach,” Todd said. “You lose too much time navigating around the canopies. With the pier construction and main access being blocked, this is only going to add to the problems this year.”

Surfside Beach Police Chief Kenneth Hofmann said although he supports having options for people to protect their skin on the beaches, he has concerns about tent enforcement.

He said the department’s ambassadors of the beach are no longer able to focus their time on welcoming visitors, instead, they’re constantly now on tent patrol.

He asked town leaders to consider three options to address the enforcement issue.

The chief’s first suggestion was to leave the requirements as they currently stand and his department will do all they can to enforce them.

Hofmann’s second recommendation is to have the tents placed in a different location along the beach, which could make enforcement a bit smoother.

He also suggested following all other Grand Strand jurisdictions and not allow them on the beaches altogether.

Town leaders asked the chief to come up with a creative plan that could enable the canopies because they’re part of what makes Surfside Beach a family beach.

“If they’re within ten feet away from the beach access and only a single row of them, it may not be so intrusive,” said Councilmember Cindy Keating. “Now that means not everyone is going to be able to put one out there. But maybe a sign will help [with enforcement].”

Town leaders expressed their support for having canopies so they can better protect families from the sun rays.

As of now, Surfside Beach is the only Grand Strand jurisdiction that allows tents on its beaches.

Hofmann said he’s working on a creative plan that could allow canopies and hopefully not impact emergency response time on the beaches.

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