For brothers Stephen and Jack Kemp, Alljoy Beach and the May River lie steps from their grandmother’s house. Swimming and crabbing are what the boys enjoy most about Bluffton, and they seemed surprised to learn that Beaufort County now owns the beach where they grew up.
A little more than a year ago, neighbors on Alljoy Road signed quitclaim deeds giving the property to the county, in the hopes that new county rules would cut down on excessive partying at the beach.
The rules for the beach (also known as Brighton Beach) outlaw alcohol, fires, littering, pets off leash and overnight camping, among other regulations.
Kirk Taylor, whose family has owned property in front of Alljoy Road for more than 40 years, says things have improved.
“For the most part it’s much better,” he said. “More family-friendly.”
Carolyn Smith, who lives on Oyster Street, called the situation “90 percent better.” Things improved immediately after the county took over because officials cleaned up the area and cut back bushes, she said, adding that the rowdy parties have stopped.
“We have thanked the county many times and at the end of this summer we’re going to thank them again,” she said.
Beaufort County Council member Tabor Vaux, who represents the Alljoy area, agreed that the number of residents contacting him to complain about the beach has “dropped significantly” since the county took over.
For decades, it was unclear who owns the waterfront at Alljoy Road, across from the county-owned, public Alljoy boat landing.
In the 1950s, the area’s original developers attempted to deed the property to a private community organization that didn’t legally exist and therefore could not accept ownership.
The property was subsequently subdivided and sold, further complicating whether the beach was private or public property.
After residents voiced concerns about excessive noise, parking problems and drug and alcohol use on the beach, county leaders and Sheriff P.J. Tanner held a series of public meetings in 2014.
This culminated in the quitclaim deed and the adoption of a county ordinance regulating activity on the beach.
The rules now posted on a green and white sign by the parking area are similar to those at other county beaches. Beach hours are limited to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day. Trailers, fishing, guns, fireworks and parking outside designated areas are prohibited.
Clear ownership by Beaufort County makes it easier for law enforcement to police the area.
Still, Taylor would like to see more patrols. During the July 4th holiday weekend, he said, some revelers shot off fireworks on the beach, and many parked on residents’ lawns to watch professional fireworks displays visible over Hilton Head Island.
But one sunny morning later in July, the new regulations didn’t affect how Felipe Vera, 29, enjoyed Alljoy Beach. With a lounge chair, earbuds and music on his phone, the line cook from The Florence restaurant in Savannah relaxed on his day off.
He rested under the shade of a sprawling live oak along the waterfront. “This place gives me energy and changes my mindset,” Vera said.
Minutes later, Dallas Sims rode up on his bike from his parents’ vacation home in the Alljoy neighborhood. In the bike’s basket perched Emma, a Shih Tzu-Chihuahua mix. Sims, who lives in Spartanburg, comes to Bluffton every other weekend and enjoys Alljoy Beach “because it’s beautiful.”
Carol Weir of Bluffton is a career journalist and teacher.