Officials question need to change rules for boat landings – Coastal Observer


Officials question need to change rules for boat landings

The Murrells Inlet Boat Landing is the busiest in the state.

An ordinance that prohibits commercial activity at public boat landings is working just fine, county officials say. But they are open to any changes that will make sure that individual boaters aren’t crowded out by people running a business.

The Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office began writing tickets to commercial users last month, but Sheriff Carter Weaver said the ordinance is too broad.

“We have to come up with something that protects the county, but at the same time does not exclude activities that have been going on for years,” Weaver said.

Enforcement of the ordinance, which was adopted in 1991, was sparked by the city of Georgetown’s efforts to prevent a 40-passenger tour boat from using the landing at East Bay Park. It obtained an injunction against Rover Tours, which also faces over 30 citations for city ordinance violations.

After the city cracked down, Rover Tours moved to the county’s Campbell Boat Landing on the south side of the Sampit River, said Beth Goodale, the county’s director of Parks and Recreation. 

“The county ran them off,” she said.

But that isn’t the only instance of commercial use the county has seen at its 25 boat ramps. Someone from Conway  tried to sell pizza from a boat in Murrells Inlet while tied up to the courtesy dock.

“That got everyone going crazy,”  Goodale said.

A deputy left a message for the owner, who had been operating in the Waccamaw River previously. The pizza boat showed up at the inlet landing anyway. When the owner was told to leave, his boat got caught by a crosswind and ended up blocking the launch ramp.

“Private boaters get angry, and rightfully so,” Goodale said.

The county adopted the ordinance after a tour boat starting operating from Hagley Landing, but it also anticipated a growing demand for water access in the county.

“For awhile we weren’t nearly as busy,” Goodale said.

The Murrells Inlet Boat Landing was turned over to the county by the state Department of Natural Resources several years ago.

“According to DNR, that’s the most used landing in the state,” County Council Member Clint Elliott said.

The landing is in his district and he launched his boat there over the weekend. He was told someone was renting Jet Skis at the landing, but he didn’t see them.

If he had, Elliott said he isn’t sure he would have been able to tell if it was a commercial activity.

“It’s hard to enforce if you don’t see somebody giving money,” he said. “I get the frustration. I just don’t know how we handle it.”

The tickets issued at the landing were for fishing guides, Weaver said. Both he and Elliott are watching to see how they are handled in magistrate’s court.

Elliott thinks the biggest concern is people taking up dock space. “If you can’t get to the dock, you can’t get your boat unloaded,” he said. “A couple of guys had that problem Saturday.”

Council Member Bob Anderson said he heard from a fishing guide who was concerned about the crackdown.

“Guides are taking out one or two people. That’s not a problem,” he said. “We’ve gone forever with this ordinance, and it’s never been a problem.”

He plans to meet with Weaver and the county attorney next week, but doesn’t foresee changes. 

“It’s not broken, and we don’t need to fix it,” he said.



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