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Litchfield Beaches: POA survey finds growing opposition to fireworks

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A growing number of property owners in the Litchfield Beaches favor banning fireworks, according to preliminary results of a survey by the area property owners association. But the level of support isn’t enough to get the association to take an active role in promoting restrictions, the group’s president said.

Last year, owners of 13 beachfront properties at North Litchfield got Georgetown County to declare their land firework-prohibited zones. Under state law, the designation allows the ban to extend to adjacent public property, in this case the beach.

The Litchfield Beaches Property Owners Association agreed in the fall to poll its members before deciding whether to promote the fireworks-free zones. The results so far show 39 percent of property owners believe fireworks should not be allowed, said John Thomas, the association president. That’s up from 16 percent in a 2001 survey.

The surveys went out to over 700 property owners. About 300 were returned and they are still being tabulated, Thomas said.

“I think this is similar to what it’s going to look like when we get all the responses,” he said.

The survey found 59 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “fireworks don’t bother me or my family.” That’s up from only 12 percent in 2001.

That means efforts to extend the fireworks-free zones will continue to be individual initiatives, Thomas said.

While more people say they aren’t bothered by fireworks, more also say that fireworks litter the beach; 82 percent, up from 37 percent in 2001.

Thomas presented the preliminary results to the property owners association board this week.

Rhea Carter, a North Litchfield resident, suggested breaking down the results by distance from the beach. Thomas said that could be done.

The survey also asked for opinions about litter, noise, traffic and police protection. The association receives accommodations tax funds from Georgetown County to maintain and pick up trash at beach accesses in Litchfield Beach and North Litchfield. The board wants to improve the condition of the 22 wooden walkways to the beach, a goal that the survey appears to support.

In 2001, over 90 percent of those surveyed said the walkways were in good condition. That is down to 80 percent in the new survey.

Board member Richard Heusel said he saw vacationers with hammers fixing loose boards on a walkway near his house at North Litchfield. “We need to be sure our walkways are safe,” he said.

Most of the walkways have a resident who keeps tabs on their condition. “Some of those boards are so warped you can’t nail them down flat,” Carter said of the walkway she monitors.

The board agreed to compile a list of the needs at each walkway and fund repairs with a portion of the $12,000 remaining from the 2013 accommodations tax grant.

The survey also found litter is less of a concern to property owners than it was in 2001, though there are differences between the two beaches.

At Litchfield Beach, 38 percent reported that trash is in the receptacles at each walkway, up from 7.5 percent in 2001. And 67 percent said the beach was “clean enough,” up from 44 percent.

At North Litchfield, 67 percent found trash was in the walkway receptacles, up from 13 percent in 2001. There were 74 percent who agreed that the beach was “clean enough, up from 47 percent.

There was also a difference between the two communities’ perception of speeding. There were 76 percent who said speeding in Litchfield Beach poses a hazard to pedestrians compared with 48 percent in 2001. The number who believe the 25 mph speed limit is obeyed dropped to 30 percent from 44 percent.

At North Litchfield, 59 percent said speeding is a danger, up from 43 percent. But those who believe the speed limit is obeyed rose to 52 percent from 50 percent.

The survey found that the perception of law enforcement has improved. There were 78 percent who believed it was adequate, up from 65 percent in 2001.

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