If you open it, they will come.

That turned out to be true over the past few days as the Town of Pawleys Island reopened its beach access points at noon on Friday, May 1.

Initially, the view of the beach and the empty parking areas gave the appearance of a quiet, secluded time.

For the long-closed South End parking lot, there continued to be open parking spaces through the afternoon Friday and at least part of the day Saturday.

Pawleys Island Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said late Monday afternoon, however, that the beach was so busy it looked like the crowds the week before the Fourth of July.

The South End parking lot was closed for months as the Town’s beach renourishment project was underway. About 1.1 million cubic yards of sand were dredged from offshore and put on the beach in the $14 million project. As that work was nearing completion, the COVID-19 virus that got its start in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China began its world-wide spread.

Like many places, Pawleys Town Council closed its beach access points in an effort to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

As Gov. Henry McMaster modified his executive orders, Pawleys Island, Georgetown County in its unincorporated areas and many other coastal communities modified or lifted their beach access closure orders.

A statement issued Friday evening, May 1, said:

“The Pawleys Island Police Department will be actively patrolling the beach to ensure all beach goers adhere to the current social distancing guidelines.”

“The Town’s prohibition on short term rentals will end on Friday, May 8.”

Like many other offices and businesses, Town Hall remains closed to the public.

Police and fire services continue to operate normally, the statement continued. Call 911 if you have an emergency.

Parking and Court tickets can be paid by mail to 323 Myrtle Avenue, Pawleys Island, SC 29585.

That last note will be important for the many people whose cars were parked illegally on the North End of the Island.

Fabbri said on Monday, “A lot of people have been going stir crazy for the past month or six weeks. A lot of people were waiting for the beach to reopen.”

“Sunday was pretty close to the Fourth of July. It was kind of busy.”

“The police wrote a lot of tickets for a lot of people” for parking violations.

“I know we had to break up a lot of groups,” Fabbri continued, “for social distancing. But, I don’t believe we wrote any citations for social distancing.”

That social distancing policy on Pawleys and throughout the state has been part of an effort to slow down the spread of the disease.

“That was the whole idea of the short-term rental ban,” he said.

What’s next

Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Fabbri said “We are about to have an influx of people from the Northeast and all over. We are going to have a population that will change weekly. We will be very open to people bringing the virus.”

“I hope people will practice social distancing and wash their hands.”

“We have an older population, a vulnerable population, who are likely to get it,” Fabbri said. “I believe we have more reasons to be careful.”

In its written statement, the Town noted that:

Governor McMaster announced the following changes to his previous executive orders:

• Outside dining is being allowed beginning May 4, 2020.

• Travel restrictions for previously identified hotspots have been lifted.

• Home or Work Order is lifted as of Monday, May 4.

The Town advises the public to take precautions issued by SCDHEC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

County beaches OK

One local resident who was staying in the Litchfield Beach area shared some photos with the Georgetown Times / South Strand News. She said that in one area it looked more like a spring break time than people who were paying attention to social distancing practices.

Jason Lesley, public information spokesman for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, said “We gave no citations over the weekend” for social distancing violations.

“Deputies patrolled the beaches. They were just watching. If people were too close, deputies spoke to them and they voluntarily complied,” Lesley said.