A few bad apples may kill town tradition

Visitors to The Sands in Port Royal must obey the laws or the town may ban vehicles there.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMay 23, 2014 

Part of the allure of The Sands in the town of Port Royal is that it hearkens to a time when automobiles freely drove along the beach. There is something both sentimental and refreshing about popping the hatch or dropping the tailgate, dangling your toes in the sand and peering across the water.

But with easy access comes problems that are prompting the town to at least consider -- again -- closing this natural amenity to vehicles altogether.

Some folks drive too fast through the area, which is adjoined by a public boat landing and boardwalk, endangering the safety of pedestrians, particularly children.

Some folks park on the far end of The Sands, a perfect place to engage in misdemeanors because the one-way-in, one-way-out access gives those up to no good plenty of time to spot police officers on patrol.

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

One response would be a plan submitted to Town Council May 14 by town manager Van Willis. It would provide parking for about 20 cars but prevent vehicles from driving up to the shore by sinking 3-foot-tall stanchions, spaced close enough to impede automobiles but wide enough to allow those on foot or in golf carts to pass.

Already, the town has closed the area to vehicles at night -- an action taken about five years ago. A gate is pulled across the entrance and locked.

But this has not stopped all of the dangerous or illegal behavior.

Closing the area to vehicles altogether is another alternative, although that would mean fewer places to park for those enjoying the landing or boardwalk.

The proposal Willis put forward seems like a better way to improve safety at minimal cost. Just the same, Willis stresses that the idea is merely preliminary, and town staff, which is not committed to it yet, only wants feedback at this point.

One senses that Willis, Beach and Town Council members would just as soon not have to take such measures -- or at least they do not want to listen to protests by those who aren't breaking the rules as they stand now.

In fact, if visitors simply policed themselves, restrictions might not be necessary.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

However, it's worth a concerted effort to raise awareness about problems caused by a handful of people at The Sands before the town is forced to restrict access and kill a quaint tradition for everyone.

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