SC governor shutters public access to beaches, boat ramps, waterways

South Carolina News

Coligny Beach on March 20, 2020

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) — South Carolina’s governor on Monday took emergency action to shutter public access points to state beaches, boat ramps, lakes, rivers and other waterways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Henry McMaster said the order comes as a result of behavior observed over the weekend by state officials.

“This is unfortunate for those who chose to responsibly follow the instructions of our public health officials, but it is a necessary action to prevent the spread of this dangerous virus,” he stated.

The governor’s executive order authorizes and instructs the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, in consultation with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Attorney General’s office, to provide any necessary supplemental guidance.

“This Section does not apply to individuals possessing a current, valid commercial fishing license or permit to the extent such individuals may seek to utilize or rely upon public piers, docks, wharfs, boat ramps, or boat landings in connection with commercial fishing activities,” the governor’s order reads.

The order does not impact the rights of private property owners living on beaches, lakes, rivers, or waterways in any way.

McMaster has already authorized police to disperse large crowds at public places, like beaches, but Monday’s resolution takes that a step further.

Locally, Hilton Head Island already closed public beach access but in private neighborhoods, like Sea Pines, the topic is still up for debate.

The town council met Monday and passed a resolution to “urge POAs and private clubs to voluntarily restrict access to their beach facilities to walkers and bikers.”

But the measure is simply a request; private boat ramps and beaches still remain untouched under the governor’s new order.

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