Ease up on beach activities Laws can limit healthy uses

The Charleston Beach and Volleyball Social Club sponsors a junior league for teen girls on the Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island. The club has had to move to The Windjammer on the Isle of Palms after violating town ordinances.

We are truly privileged to live near so many beaches.

There are three public ones that are fairly easy to reach by car (although traffic can be an issue), two mostly private ones, another one via a longer drive and even more can be accessed by boat and other watercraft.

Beaches are assets in so many ways, but particularly in motivating people to unplug and exercise outdoors. And considering the obesity issues in the United States and South Carolina, we need all the motivation we can get.

As many readers of The Post and Courier know, a little controversy involving a beach volleyball league for teenage girls, which had neither a business permit nor liability insurance, flared earlier this month.

It's been resolved by the league meeting on private property, but it underscored an issue that the towns and fitness professionals have dealt with for years.

Officials on Sullivan's Island and the Isle of Palms ban all commercial activity on the beach, even teaching lessons to surf, paddleboard or kiteboard or holding yoga or exercise classes.

They stress that the ban is an effort to keep vendors from peddling stuff such as hot dogs, ice cream and soft drinks on the beach.

But does it have to be all or nothing? While “equal treatment under the law” often is cited, I wonder what happened to “where there's a will, there's a way” and if saying no is just a way of avoiding the hassles of crafting and enforcing exemptions.

I asked an attorney friend of mine about it. She didn't want to be quoted, but basically agreed that crafting an ordinance specifying acceptable activities is possible, though “more challenging in practice than it sounds in theory.”

The recent beach volleyball controversy reminded me of one I covered seven years ago when local surfing guru Kai Dilling and the Isle of Palms squared off over surfing lessons.

They settled, and Dilling took his Sol Surfers Surf Camp to Folly Beach, which has worked out well.

But Dilling and others still can't technically conduct a paid lesson on Sullivan's or his native Isle of Palms, which is a shame, particularly for safety reasons.

Sullivan's Island Town Administrator Andy Benke, an avid surfer himself, says both islands are interested in promoting healthy, outdoor lifestyles.

Benke cites the park spaces the towns offer and maintain, as well as events such as road races and charity beach runs.

Isle of Palms has a recreation department that offers many fitness activities.

Benke noted, too, that Sullivan's Island landed a $197,000 urban green belt grant to create and enhance a trail system through its protected dune land.

It will provide hiking and running opportunities through a beautiful urban wilderness from Station 16 to Sullivan's Island Elementary School.

The same trust that protects that land, Benke stresses, also adds another layer of restriction for commercial activities, on top of zoning, for the beach on Sullivan's Island.

“I don't know what the solution would be to this (allowing compatible activities), but it would be extremely difficult,” says Benke.

Until an effort is made, I think some will lose out on using the beach in an appropriate way.

Think of the opportunities available to young women to hone their volleyball skills on the beach, from success on local volleyball teams to potential college scholarships. Think of a kid from Kansas who needs a crash course in surfing.

And while I doubt the line in the sand will be redrawn, I hope that both towns, and residents, will use some discretion in coming down too hard on healthy uses of the beach that may involve a little money.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.