ISLE OF PALMS S.C. - Thousands of visitors are making their way to Lowcountry beaches this week and Isle of Palms leaders and business owners say it’s far busier than expected.
“This year is just bonkers honestly. It’s full up, it’s like July 4 every day,” Port City Moped owner Jordan Chaplin said.
A large number of the crowds are made up of spring breakers, both local and from out-of-state.
“We are just enjoying our spring break. We have one more day which is tomorrow so we decided to come out and have a beach day,” Summerville resident Candace Fladger said.
Both businessowners and visitors alike say they’re expecting to see the beach busier than years before as more people get out, looking to escape more than a year of isolation during the pandemic.
“Because of COVID, last summer and spring break we didn’t really have anything to do,” Fladger said. “We couldn’t go anywhere so we just decided this is the best way to social distance and get out for a little bit and enjoy spring break.”
“Meeting people from all over the world, and I talked to a couple the other day and they mentioned that they were quarantined and they just had to get out,” Chaplin said.
The crowds mean parking is harder to come by and frequent traffic backups when thousands try to leave.
“Beaches are not getting any bigger and there’s only so many places a person can park when they come to the beach,” Mayor Jimmy Carroll said.
Carroll said he’s worried about keeping island residents safe.
“We’re reaching out to outside police agencies, the county, we’re going to hire off-duty officers to come help give us a hand out here because we need more officers to help keep it safe for everybody,” Carroll said.
The Isle of Palms also had systemwide issues with parking Kiosks last week.
Police Chief Kevin Cornett said they have all but four parking Kiosks back up and running and police have been blocking off certain streets when city and county lots fill up.
“They are coned off so that we can eliminate some of those turnarounds are really slowing down traffic,” Cornett said.
Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island have also seen a large influx of visitors this week.
Andrew Gilreath, public safety director on Folly Beach, said they are manually running stop lights and have increased staff to help handle tens of thousands of guests.
“I do think folks plan on trying to resume some resemblance of normal through the increased vaccinations, we will have to wait and see how things stack up moving forward,” Gilreath said. “If this spring break is an indication, yes, I think we are in for a busy summer.”