RESULTS – NOVEMBER 17 CITY COUNCIL WORKSHOP
The North Myrtle Beach City Council met in a November 17, 2:00 pm workshop session at City Hall to learn more about kayak congestion at the Cherry Grove Park & Boat Ramp at 53rd Avenue North.
City Manager Mike Mahaney introduced the topic by describing the current state of affairs at the boat ramp.
In addition to the normal traffic created by individual boat and kayak users, about six private companies now use the Park & Boat Ramp to launch their paid kayak tours.
Some companies own off-site business locations where their customers must go to pay their tour fee and to be transported by van to the boat ramp. They also tow the kayaks they will use for the tour.
Other companies have progressed to the point where they do business at the boat ramp, even to the extent of promoting it as their business location. They also store their kayaks and gear throughout the park each day, sometimes monopolizing the use of the ramp and surrounding park areas to the exclusion of other boaters and park-goers. While they do have City business licenses, they do not have any formal arrangement with the City that allows them to solicit and conduct business transactions on the City-owned property. Their clients also arrive at the Park & Boat Ramp in their own vehicles, taking up much of the already limited parking.
Some of the public input at the workshop also brought to light the need for better control of how kayak tours operate when on the water.
One company said that it limits its tours to 12 kayaks at a time, and the tour guide directs its users to move to one side of the major channel when other boats are passing through. Other companies do not limit the number of kayakers in a tour and allow them to stretch out across the channel, sometimes blocking other craft from passing, or interrupting tubing and other pursuits allowed in the channel.
City Council emphasized from the outset of the workshop that their goal is not to shut down the use of the boat ramp for launching kayaks, but to develop measures that can be used to better manage a process that is clearly out of control.
The City recognizes that kayak tours are part of North Myrtle Beach’s growing eco-tourism market but it also recognizes that the tours cannot be allowed to overwhelm the use of a comparatively small public facility that is also intended for the enjoyment of other boaters, those who fish, and those who simply want to relax and enjoy nature.
At the end of the workshop, City Council directed the City Manager to work with his staff to develop potential solutions that might be used to better manage what occurs at the Park & Boat Ramp.
When the City has prepared proposed solutions, another Council workshop will be scheduled, and the City Manager will present the proposed solutions to City Council.
Proposed solutions could be in the form of legislation that would govern the use of the Park & Boat Ramp, or lease arrangements with private kayak tour companies containing operating regulations, or some other approach.
City Council will then discuss the different recommended approaches and work to refine them.
The City’s goal is to have those tools in place before the start of the summer season.