Some Grand Strand communities open up public beach accesses, others vote to keep closed
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Public access to some stretches of beach along the Grand Strand reopened to the public on Tuesday, while leaders in other municipalities pumped the brakes and decided not to reopen accesses for now.
The move comes after Gov. Henry McMaster announced on Monday the cancellation of part of an executive order that closed public access to beaches across South Carolina. The order was enacted to help slow the spread of COVID-19. McMaster said that it’s up to mayors and councils to make their own decisions on whether or not to reopen public beach accesses.
Those who choose to open were allowed to do so at noon Tuesday. The governor added that the rules of social distancing of six feet or more will still apply on the beach. Law enforcement is still ordered to disperse crowds of three or more people that are causing a threat to public health.
North Myrtle Beach was one of the municipalities that allowed public beach accesses to reopen. City leaders are trusting the public to be responsible.
During a conference video call with North Myrtle Beach, Mayor Marilyn Hatley discussed what the public needs to pay attention to as they may hit the beach.
"Please listen and listen to our beach patrol. If the beach patrol and the police officers come by and ask you to separate please do so,” Hatley said.
On Tuesday, groups of people were already walking onto the beach before noon. One couple back out on the beach for the first time since the public access closures admitted they had some mixed feelings about them reopening.
“Excited, but slightly concerned," beachgoer John Lagasse said. "I think it can get out of control and I hate to see this thing blow up again so it’s got to be done carefully.”
Another couple said they came from Myrtle Beach where public access remains closed.
They said the whole reason they moved to South Carolina was for the beaches and the peace the coastline can bring.
“I was in the Marine Corp and I have PTSD and this [beach] helps me relax,” Jerry Hoover said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re going to explode and this [beach] makes all the difference.”
Horry County leaders also chose to go with McMaster’s order and allow public beach accesses in the county to open up. Horry County councilman Tyler Servant said at this point, they have to trust that beachgoers will abide by the rules and social distance.
“The entire concept of America works because we trust people to do the right thing when given information. That’s one of the main reason I supported opening the beaches. People can use this as an opportunity to enjoy God-given beauty and enjoy the outdoor activities," Servant said.
The Surfside Beach Town Council also passed a resolution Tuesday morning to reopen public beach access for non-stationary activity to include walking and dog walking. It is also limited to those with town parking decals.
While North Myrtle Beach, Horry County and Surfside Beach are moving forward with plans to reopen public beach access, other municipalities along the Grand Strand have decided to keep public beach accesses closed.
Here is a breakdown of where Grand Strand communities stand on beach reopenings:
REOPENING AT 12 P.M. TUESDAY
- City of North Myrtle Beach
- Unincorporated sections of Horry County
- Town of Surfside Beach
- Pawleys Island
- Georgetown County
- Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen issued an executive order on Monday night that will keep public beach accesses closed in order to give the city council time to call a meeting and discuss with Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock the next steps and what kind of restrictions they want to put in place.
That meeting date has not yet been set.
During a special meeting Tuesday morning, the Pawleys Island Town Council passed a measure to keep their public beach accesses closed until 12 p.m. on Monday, April 27.
Georgetown County issued an emergency ordinance keeping public beach accesses closed which includes the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk, Jetty View Walkway and Veterans Pier.
Leaders said it’s all in a continued effort to protect and preserve the welfare of the community.
The emergency ordinance states that the closure of the public beach accesses will run until the Georgetown County State of Emergency expires which will be May 15, unless the county council ends it sooner.
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