Port Royal seeks residents' help in stopping problems at The Sands

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJune 13, 2014 

Lekeisha Gerike, of Beaufort, accompanies Jace Paulk, 6, Jamison Paulk, 3, and Jaxen Porter, 8, while exploring The Sands in Port Royal on April 2, 2014.

THEOPHIL SYSLO — Staff photo Buy Photo

The town of Port Royal is looking for help from residents and visitors to The Sands beach.

Reckless driving, drinking in public and other problems prompted town staff to propose limiting parking at the beach. Although a public-awareness campaign in recent weeks has helped reduce incidents -- and stirred up community discussion -- problems persist.

"It's to a point that it's getting way out of hand," Town Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray Heywardsaid.

Ten alcohol-related violations, two trespassing and two careless-driving citations have been reported since the beginning of May. Another report, of two drivers "cutting donuts" on the beach, did not result in citations because it came in a day after the incident.

"We felt like we've got a pretty good handle on it, but we're still having some issues," town manager Van Willis said Wednesday. "In fact, when we went out there (at) 6 o'clock, you could see where a vehicle had plowed through (the marsh)."

Police Chief Alan Beach said random daytime patrols of The Sands have increased because the area has been busy. He's seen as many as 40 vehicles at the beach.

He said people should call Beaufort County's nonemergency dispatch line at 843-524-2777 if they see a problem. Witnesses should provide detailed descriptions of vehicles and drivers.

Willis said visitors should be careful to avoid confrontations if they choose to take pictures or video of violations.

"We definitely don't want anyone getting run over," Beach said.

In May, town officials discussed closing part of the beach to vehicles. Currently, people can drive to the shoreline.

The proposal calls for 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 also would be installed to inform drivers they should not drive past that point.

The posts would be spaced to allow pedestrians and golf carts to pass through, but not larger vehicles.

Grace Von Harten visited The Sands with her family Friday afternoon. They thought about visiting the beach at Hunting Island State Park, but the free, local beach in Port Royal is only 15 minutes from her home by Laurel Bay. Being able to park a few hundred feet from the shore is an added draw.

"When you have little children, you see all the paraphernalia that comes with them," she said, gesturing toward her three grandchildren, blankets, a cooler and beach toys. "It's a lot easier when you don't have to carry that far."

Daughter-in-law Brite Nettles said the beach was peaceful Thursday and Friday when she visited this week and considers it a safe place to let children play.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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