Don’t choke off beach access

Some residents of the Isle of Palms are trying to yank up the welcome mat for non-residents who want to enjoy the beach. The beach that belongs to the public, that is.

They don’t like so many people driving to the island and parking along streets near their houses. Public streets, that is.

Some have planted shrubs or put up signs that limit parking on the shoulder of the road. The shoulder which is the public right of way, of course.

Some residents have legitimate beefs. Apparently some visitors help themselves to residents’ water hoses and leave litter on their lawns. Their private property.

But at the time they purchased or rented property on the Isle of Palms, residents knew, or should have known, that the beach is public and the public must have access to it.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that inappropriate or illegal behavior should be tolerated. Drunkenness, littering and unsafe parking are problems for residents and visitors alike. That’s what the Isle of Palms Police Department can address.

What it means is that the city has to accommodate safely people who want to go to the beach for the day. They need a place to park and an approach to the beach.

In February, the Isle of Palms Planning Commission recommended a $65 seasonal pass to park on streets outside the commercial area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through September. The city would issue no more than 1,000. The law would take effect in 2013.

And while it is reasonable for the Isle of Palms to regulate parking within its limits, a $65 season-long pass is out of reach for many, and more than needed by others who go to the beach once or twice a summer.

There is one-day parking for $7 in the commercial area of the island, but that is a crowded area unsatisfactory to surfers and parents who must keep a clear view of their children.

Folly Beach has issued high fines for littering, drinking alcohol and disorderly conduct on the beach. It charges $1 an hour for parking in small off-street areas.

Fines help cover the cost of cleanup and repair of beach paths. Those actions recognize the necessity of keeping order in the beach community — while keeping the public beach available to the public.

Before imposing a fee that would effectively limit public access, the Isle of Palms should concentrate its efforts to addressing inappropriate and illegal behavior by visitors. People who litter, trespass and park in front of residents’ driveways should be stopped, just as people who bend or break laws to prevent the public from using the beach should be stopped.

There should be room on the Isle of Palms both for residents and visitors, and there is a salty sea breeze to take the edge off when tensions over parking build.