Don't mess with Folly

Folly Beach allows alcoholic beverages on the beach, but only in cups. No glass containers of any kind are allowed.

Brad Nettles // The Post and Courier

Jimmy Kittrell (left), with the Folly Beach Public Safety Department, hands a plastic cup to Ben Hughes to pour his beer into, as Riche Hughes looks on. Kittrell dispenses cups and trash bags, and warns beachgoers about the fines that could be levied if they don’t follow the Folly Beach laws.

FOLLY BEACH -- The 2009 July Fourth fireworks show on the island was reportedly quite entertaining.

But it paled in comparison to the fireworks that followed the next morning, when locals discovered that they had been left with a massive cleanup like they had never seen before.

"Disgusting and embarrassing," Surf Rider Foundation member Bubber Hutto, who helped clean up the mess, declared after helping to haul away tons of alcoholic beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarette butts and packaging, chicken bones and busted up Styrofoam coolers from beach sands, beach access paths, streets and yards.

The sheer volume of litter that some 40,000 holiday weekend visitors left for the city to deal with set off reverberations that are still being felt today. City Council held hearings and at a lengthy series of meetings considered scores of possible solutions.

"The public outcry was enough that we knew something had to be done, and not just a Band-Aid response," then City Councilman Tom Scruggs said.

After implementing some new responses last year, Folly Beach is bracing for the new visitor season. Folly has a mayor who took office last spring and a brand new police chief, both of whom say they will do whatever is necessary to prevent another holiday weekend debacle from happening.

Mayor Tim Goodwin said the city is determined to change people's attitudes about how they behave when they come to the beach.

He hopes people will be on their best behavior, but for those who ignore the city's ordinances regarding litter, alcohol and dogs on the beach, personal behavior and parking, strict enforcement of the law is anticipated, Goodwin said.

"It isn't just litter," he said. "It's people who come here and use unacceptable language around other people and children. We want you to be respectful of everybody and be a decent person."

Said Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown, "Folks need to understand that there will be consequences for their actions, with fines up to $1,000."

"It's a great family beach," said Brown, who was hired this spring after serving five years as chief of public safety in Wilton, Maine. He said he loves what he has seen at Folly so far, and hopes to help preserve the family atmosphere.

Police are making full use of volunteers who will serve as eyes and ears of the department's limited number of officers, and police will utilize volunteer constables to beef up numbers of badges on patrol.

Brown said the Public Safety Department expects to have filled some vacancies by the time school is out and the throngs begin arriving daily at the beach. Shuffling some current assignments will get more officers on the streets, in marked patrol cars, and on the beach, Brown said.

"Officers in plain clothes will be on the beach," he said.

Folly is the area's only beach that allows alcohol consumption -- in cups but not in cans or bottles -- on the sand. But Folly is not the place to go when you want to get really drunk and/or misbehave, and not the haven some teens think it is for underage drinking, Goodwin and Brown said.

"We want to be a deterrent to that kind of activity," Brown said.

The city makes arrests for offenses such as underage drinking, Goodwin said.

Goodwin said that among behavioral patterns the city hopes to change include some visitors' failure to understand why they should not urinate under beach residents' homes or park vehicles in yards and on sidewalks.

"Where in the world do you park on the sidewalk?" he asked rhetorically.

"We're trying to add a few portalets at strategic points," and the city has put out more trash receptacles, Goodwin said. He asked that visitors take away the trash they bring to the beach, and treat the beach, parking areas and the portalets with respect.

Brown said he hopes visitors will keep the public restroom clean and functioning. "We're hopeful people will be respectful and use the facilities If they are not taken care of, we will have to address it. Treat it like your own back yard," he added.

Volunteers from the Surf Riders and other groups also will help pick up the litter that will inevitably be left behind, Goodwin said.