By Theresa Stratford for The Island Connection
It is not always true that the more things change, the more things stay the same. At least not when it comes to the Seabrook Island Beach Patrol. At the Seabrook Island Town Council meeting on Aug. 23, Council Member Jeri Finke announced that the town’s Environmental and Wildlife Committee continued the discussion of rewriting Seabrook’s beach ordinance and that they even came up with language in rough-draft form. “We mostly talked about broad concepts and what the ordinance language should look like,” she noted. Finke said that the committee met on Aug. 11 for three hours and that later, council members met with members of the Seabrook Island Beach Patrol to get a “good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.” She said that they will take the information from what they learned from Beach Patrol back to the committee in next month’s meeting to further address the issue. “Moving forward, in a couple of months, we hope to have something drafted to present to Council,” she said. Town Administrator Joe Cronin supported Finke’s report on potential changes to the beach ordinance.
“This ultimately arose from the budget workshop we had a few weeks ago,” he said.
“Questions arose on if the level of service that we currently have is adequate or if we need changes.” He said that the beach patrol’s biggest issue is “hands down” topography – meaning changes to the beach landscape over the years. “In the past, beach patrol could easily move from one side of the beach to the other around the Beach Club,” Cronin explained. “For all practical purposes, that is no longer the case.” He also mentioned the issue with only having one beach patrol vehicle for a good part of the season and staffed with only one or two employees, depending on the time period. “There are instances where they are on one side of the beach and there is an incident on the other side of the beach. They literally have to back track all the way back to Boardwalk 2, drive all the way around Camp (St. Christopher) and then out of the Camp access and then go down the Edisto side,” Cronin relayed. He said they are going to put together cost estimates for a couple of different options if the Town decides to modify the level of service going forward.
Cronin also explained that they have a five-year agreement with the consultant providing their beach patrol, Barrier Island Ocean Rescue. “It is a two-year initial term and then three-one year renewal terms for a total of five years.” Seabrook Island is currently in the second year of the agreement so there will be an opportunity to change the level of service. He said that they are looking at keeping the same level of service but ensuring they have two vehicles during operating hours, and ensuring that they have two patrol officers on duty – one on the ocean side and one on the Edisto side. Right now, beach patrol season is April 1 to Sept. 30. Another option they want to consider is having it begin March 1, which is the season for Red Knots, and going through October, which is turtle nesting season.
Whether it be for the full month or just on the weekends, Cronin reminded Council that they do have a full-time code enforcement officer that works during the week. “We have asked for cost estimates and I should know what those are in a few weeks,” he said. “Obviously, if we increase service, it will cost more.” Right now, Seabrook Island pays Barrier Island Ocean Rescue $185,000 per year with the current level of service.
Cronin said he will work with the Environmental and Wildlife Committee as well as members of Council to come up with rules and changes to the ordinance.
Finke added, “We could even add an 18-wheeler so that the beach patrol officers could overcome the topography.”