GALVESTON — Island beaches had a welcome addition on Saturday — visitors.
After a couple of lackluster weekends marred by weather and the specter of an oil spill, the beaches along the seawall came to life Saturday.
A cold front dissipated by midday, leaving temperatures in the 70s, an ideal day for getting some fun in the sun.
“It’s pretty good here lately, considering it was so cold this morning,” said Peter Davis, chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. “The seawall has really picked up in the last hour.”
Cars lined most of the south side of Seawall Boulevard by midafternoon. Families ambled down the seawall, while customers filled restaurants and stores along the beach front.
“It’s pretty brisk,” said William Cram, co-owner of Ohana Surf & Skate on 28th Street and Seawall Boulevard.
Because of the variables that affect the surf business, including water temperature, it was hard to compare this weekend to previous years, Cram said. But there was plenty of interest from customers in rentals and lessons.
“Overall, I’d have to say our business is good,” he said.
The crowds should provide some relief for isle merchants, particularly on the beach front.
The oil spill that dumped up to 168,000 gallons of bunker fuel into Galveston Bay near the Texas City Dike had businesses worried that reports of oil washing up on island beaches would keep visitors away.
But Cram said he wasn’t worried.
“What oil spill?” he asked jokingly. “They’re not concerned with it. They’re coming to the island.”
By Saturday, most of the spilled oil remaining on the island was confined to the East End. Cleanup crews focused most of their efforts on environmentally sensitive areas such as Big Reef Nature Preserve and the East End Lagoon.
Seawolf Park on Pelican Island was being used as a staging area for cleanup efforts. While Galveston’s central and West End beaches were busy, East Beach, one of the island’s two large beach parks, remained closed due to the cleanup.
While beach-goers enjoyed the weather, volunteers from the Galveston Bay Foundation continued their efforts to mark any oil deposits on the beach for later cleanup. Forty-two volunteers scoured 17 miles of beach Saturday, covering beaches from 35th to 61st streets as well as beaches on the West End.
Emily Ford, volunteer coordinator with the Galveston Bay Foundation, said volunteers had found little oil so far.
“The good news so far is there’s not a whole lot of impact they’re finding now,” she said.