Port Royal officials consider curbing vehicle access to Sands

emoody@beaufortgazette.comMay 18, 2014 

A long tradition of driving across The Sands beach and parking by the shore could end soon.

Town of Port Royal officials are considering a plan that would put up barricades halfway down the sandy beach, creating parking and limiting where trucks and cars can drive.

An initial plan was presented Wednesday to Town Council by town manager Van Willis, who said his staff seeks input on the idea and is not yet committed to it.

The plan showed a more organized traffic pattern leading into and out of a parking area for about 20 cars. Vehicles would be prevented from driving up to the shore by 3-foot-tall posts. Signs would also be installed telling drivers they could not drive past that point.

The posts would be wide enough to allow pedestrians and golf carts to pass through. It would create a safety zone for children and for walkers, Willis said.

It would also help the police department, he said, because vehicles would not be parking at the far end of The Sands. If someone is doing something illegal, Willis said, "they can see us coming a mile away," when an officer drives out there.

Despite the discussion about restricting traffic, the town contracted Joco Construction to fill in ditches Friday that have been etched into the main traffic areas.

"I was reluctant to do that because (the ditches slow) people down, but it's pretty treacherous right now," Willis said.

Closing The Sands to vehicular traffic has been proposed before, but it is not something Town Council is eager to do, Councilman Joe Lee said.

There have been a number of citations issued during the past six months for vehicles driving recklessly across the beach, Police Chief Alan Beach said. Illegal drinking and other "inappropriate behavior" have been problems through the years, too, he said.

To combat problems, most of which occur at night, The Sands was closed to vehicles at night about five years ago, he said. A gate is pulled across the entrance and locked.

Closing the beach entirely could cause a parking shortage, as the area needs to accommodate boats and trailers for the landing, as well as vehicles for people going to The Sands and the boardwalk, he said.

"Why punish everybody when it's just a few who get out of line?" Beach said. "I don't want to do that, so we'll take some preventative measures and see if that helps."

People are encouraged to report violations and misbehavior to Port Royal police by calling 843-527-2727.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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