A few years back, the Isle of Palms put up nine signs along Ocean Boulevard warning surfers to watch out for swimmers.

The signs were bright blue and included a picture of a surfer riding a big wave on them. They apparently were quite attractive.

All nine of them disappeared almost immediately.

So a few missing parking signs on the island here and there is no big surprise.

“It's been going on a long time,” Police Chief T.E. Buckhannon says with a laugh.

On Friday, some of Buckhannon's officers were out replacing stolen parking signs along 8th Avenue, just days after they had to remove some less-than-official “No Parking” signs locals had helpfully put up on their own.

Yeah, this parking problem is sticking in the craw of some locals — sort of like sand in their bathing suits. And it's not getting any better.

In the typical July, 1 million cars drive onto the barrier island, and all of them have to park somewhere. And most opt not to use the 600 or so public spaces in the business district.

They prefer the side of the road, typically in front of beach front mansions.

Therein lies the problem.

Right now, Isle of Palms City Council is planning to bring in some professional help to sort out these parking woes.

That's good — this is too big a problem to do it wrong.

“We know people want to come to the beach, and we want them to,” says Mayor Dick Cronin. “Our priority is to get them there in a safe and controlled environment.”

The control is the problem. Some people park perpendicular to the street, others park along the shoulder. And often these folks don't help their cause. A few use the showers outside locals' houses, and the occasional rude soul leaves behind trash or dirty diapers. Chaotic?

It makes the Hurricane Floyd evacuation look calm.

So maybe the locals take down the signs advertising parking in front of their houses (the police have found a few of them at local residences). And a few put up their own “No Parking” signs.

Sorry, that's island vigilantism. It's understandable, but if you live on a public beach, there are going to be people around your house. So chill.

The police are not exactly ignoring this problem.

During the season, the city brings in four people to do nothing but police parking in addition to all the other officers who keep an eye on things.

Generally, they write between 200 and 300 tickets a month. Which means they are on it. But if there are a million cars in a busy month, it's impossible to catch everyone.

This means the police have much better, and more pressing, things to do than replace signs. So whoever is doing this should cut it out. It just eats up tax dollars, and the upshot is not too great.

All those pretty surfer signs that disappeared were replaced with dull ones that include no pictures. They are still there.

The lesson: When you mess with official signs, the results often are not pretty.

Just remember: Life's a beach for some people.

The rest only get to visit. Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.