A highly circulated report claiming Southern California beachgoers would have to pay a hefty fine for throwing a ball or Frisbee at the beach was not only inaccurate, the decades-old restrictions were actually loosened, and the more notable change involved digging holes, said a public official Tuesday.
"A website report that was wrong, basically said we were going to fine individuals $1,000 for throwing footballs or playing Frisbee on the beach -- it went viral quickly, then went international," Carol Baker, public information officer for LA County Beaches and Harbors, said.
Prior to the new ordinance, a regulation dating back about 40 years banned throwing balls and playing sports activities on the beach all together.
The main reason for the new ordinance, approved Jan. 31, was to provide safety to Los Angeles beaches, which see upwards of 50-70 million visitors per year, Baker said.
"We wanted to create more opportunities for ball play. We get requests for beach tennis, soccer, sport expeditions and fundraising sports events. We wanted to create and designate space to allow these activities," Baker said.
When people are throwing balls around and playing in contact sports, other bystanders can be harmed, she added.
The new ordinance states people can, "throw, kick, roll any ball or light object on LA County beaches during off-peak season between Labor Day and Memorial Day," as long as it does not endanger anyone else.
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Playing with a ball or light object can also be permissible year-round in designated areas or by getting the approval from the Department of Beaches and Harbors, or a lifeguard on duty.
Violating the new rule could lead to a $100 fine for the first offense.
"Most people are fairly careful and don't intend to hurt anyone; they will just naturally play in a safe zone," Baker said.
In addition to the new ball rule, how deep a hole can be dug at the beach will now be regulated.
Two boys, in separate incidences, nearly died last year after being buried alive when the holes they were digging collapsed on them.
Bystander to the one of the tragedies, Steven Hicks told NBC4 last August what he saw when 17-year-old Matt Mina became buried alive: the boy was "playing in the sand with a friend, digging a tunnel this afternoon. He became buried in the sand when the tunnel collapsed."
"He was pulled out just a few minutes later. He was breathing but had sand in his mouth and was taken by paramedics to Los Alamitos Medical Center. About two minutes after being dug out he was up and talking," Hicks added.
Children and other people digging holes in the sand are now limited to 18 inches deep. Beyond that and they will be in violation of the new rules.
For a full list of do's and don'ts on beach rules and beach safety, visit the LA County Department Of Beaches and Harbors website.