Before digging in Sunset Beach sand, check out new ordinance—it's the law!

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

It's that time of year again in Sunset Beach—expert sand castle builders Steve Goodmuth, Karen Koebel and company are back at the beach digging and creating with sand. Or trying to.

This year, it's a little different, though.

Earlier this year, just before the usual beach visitation crowd descends and sand-digging season heats up, Sunset Beach Town Council passed an ordinance regulating hole-digging at the beach.

Some people thought that was silly

One letter-writer to the Beacon suggested as much—was the town going to lock up a 5-year-old, presumably heavily armed with a plastic shovel and bucket purchased without a permit by a naive mom, dad or grandparent at the local beachwear store, for random excavations?

Stop worrying about holes, he wrote, and instead pay more attention to surf fishermen posing dangers with their hooks and lines. Well, that activity probably merits a closer look, too, especially for anyone literally stepping onto such a scenario. Ditto for a lack of rules for jellyfish, stingrays, sharks and approaching storms (i.e., Beryl), who don't seem to give a flip what beach-goers think. So you best stay out of their way, the best way you can.

The basis for the new town hole-digging ordinance, of course, has more meat than meets the eye.

Town council wasn't casting a jaded eye on the digging inclinations of preschoolers so much as it was on massive crater-diggers trying to get to the moon or China or something. Typically, these are older folks wielding bona fide shovels, the hardware store variety posing hazards of their own.

If such holes are left wide open and unattended, they are a danger for even older folks or people just not paying attention—a common occurrence for anyone walking the beach with their head in the clouds instead of focused on the sand beneath their feet.

Then there are sea turtle issues. How can expectant mama turtles be expected to gracefully waddle over to their nesting sites, or their baby hatchlings to skillfully scurry into the sea, with a big ol' hole deep enough to bury a pirate ship in the way?

As for Goodmuth and Koebel, they just want to make sure their beach creativity is cool with town beach/code enforcement officers this year. They also don't want to get a ticket.

The couple, accompanied by friends and family, were back this past weekend trying to build something beautiful at the beach at 40th Street.

But first, they wanted to make sure they're aware of the "hole ordinance" and aren't breaking any rules.

The whole hole ordinance, unanimously approved by town council in April, states holes dug on the beach are required to be attended to at all times and filled prior to leaving the beach. It states "No hole, trench or depression on the beach strand shall exceed 18 inches in depth and 5 feet in width.”

Wonder if code enforcement is being supplied with tape measures this year?

The amendment also imposes a $25 fine for violators. Try not to be one of them.

Council also put in a word for people like Goodmuth and Koebel who are simply trying to build aesthetically pleasing sand sculptures while visiting the beach for a few weeks.

Koebel, on the beach Sunday, said they've always had good rapport with code enforcers and turtles alike and would like for that to continue.

"We don't leave large holes," she said.

A town council member visited them later that day, reassuring them the gist of the hole-digging ordinance is to keep people safe rather than prevent them from crafting sand sculptures.

Other than worries about the new ordinance, the only other issues potentially undermining the sandcastle-builders' creativity this season are vandals and the weather—see previous reference about Beryl barreling up the coast.

It'd be nice if town council could do something about those.


Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email llewis@brunswickbeacon.com.