Two incidents in which allegedly alcohol-fueled beach visitors behaved badly and left mounds of litter on local beaches have spurred action by local municipalities and citizens, who hope to keep such debacles from happening again.
In the cross hairs are the July Fourth trashings of Folly Beach, upon which an estimated 40,000 people descended that holiday weekend, according to Mayor Carl Beckmann Jr., and Morris Island, adjacent to Folly but accessible only by boat.
The beer cans and bottles, liquor bottles, beer packaging, snack wrappers, cigarette butts and abandoned coolers collected from the beach starting at dawn July 5 reportedly choked the city's trash cans and collection trucks.
At Morris Island, a Civil War battle zone that on July 4 was invaded by more than 1,500 holiday revelers on more than 380 boats, at least 30 bags of trash were picked up by concerned residents after the party was over, according to local marine scientist Elizabeth Wenner.
The wild weekend included not only the littering, but also incidents of rowdy behavior that left residents and officials looking for answers.
The city of Folly Beach will hold a Town Hall meeting Aug. 4 at which the public may comment on proposals for preventing littering and rowdy behavior.
The city of Charleston, which owns the popular northern end of Morris Island called Cummings Point, has posted signs there alerting visitors that drinking, drugs, golfing, profanity, littering, metal-detecting, fireworks, camping and dogs running loose are not allowed. The fine for drinking in public can run as high as $179.
Folly Beach City Council held a special workshop session July 14 and came up with a list of possible solutions that included law enforcement actions, putting out more trash receptacles and picking up trash more often. Thoughts of banning alcohol on the beach quickly were abandoned, but prohibiting alcohol on certain dates (such as July 4) or limiting the beach areas where alcohol can be consumed were considered.
Beckmann said residents don't favor repealing laws that make Folly the only area beach that allows alcohol consumption on the sand. He said an alcohol ban would force the city into spending far more for law enforcement than it can afford, and even limited bans on certain dates or for certain beach areas "would be very difficult to enforce."
Beckmann said he's not heard of any incident since July 4 that would rival the volume of litter or the frequency of tawdry incidents that made the holiday weekend a bad one for many Folly residents and visitors.
More Folly residents tell him, he said, that they are picking up litter from the beach and their streets. He added that the intensity and volume of publicity over the holiday incidents may have played a part, at least temporarily, in curbing the incidents. Those who would leave their trash on the beach "are becoming more cognizant that we are looking at them, that we are watching them and, somewhere down the road, fines will be imposed," he said.
Wenner, who frequents Morris Island and took photos July 4 that illustrated the scope of the littering problem there, was also at Morris for a July 18 AquaPalooza sponsored by Sea Ray personal watercraft of Charleston.
AquaPalooza saw no repeat at Morris Island of the Independence Day littering or the rowdy behavior that spoiled the fun for many, Wenner said.
"I don't think it was any comparison," Wenner said.
Wenner said that she's not against having a good time, but July 4, music boomed across Morris Island, and the fun sometimes stretched beyond what's usually considered good family entertainment. One of the larger vessels at Morris on July 4 featured an open-air exotic dancer's pole, she said. "It was one huge frat party."
Wenner and Folly Beach residents have stressed the need for visitors to police themselves and take all their trash with them when they leave.
Folly Beach Councilwoman Laura Beck said the problem is that adults aren't behaving as they should. "How do we tell people we are not your mom, and take your plate to the sink?"
Reach Edward C. Fennell at email@example.com or 937-5560.