GALVESTON — Members of the Galveston Island Park Board of Trustees and a small group of volunteers set out to inspect sensitive ecological areas on the East End on Friday.

The group of a dozen volunteers, park board members and U.S. Coast Guard liaisons met to go over the group’s plan to hike and kayak around Big Reef Nature Preserve and East Beach area.

“(Cleanup crews) have done a fabulous job of remediating the shoreline,” Kelly de Schaun, the park board’s executive director, told the volunteers. “I want you all to focus on potential inland contaminant points.”

De Schaun said she was pleased with the way the Coast Guard had responded and with the cleanup efforts. Only two days after the spill, remediation efforts had started in the East Beach and Big Reef area, she said.

On Friday the volunteers split up in teams of two and walked the shoreline around Big Reef. They hiked walking trails and checked waterways by kayak.

“Our desire is to get out into our parks and to evaluate the impact that these parks have had,” de Schaun said.

This will likely be the beginning of an ongoing monitoring program in these areas, she said.

Cleanup crews in protective gear were laying out boom and oil absorbent poms in the East End Lagoon and were power-washing rocks along the ship channel and near the Fort San Jacinto area near the end of Seawall Boulevard.

Because crews are still working on Seawolf Park and in and around the East End Lagoon, volunteers were not yet allowed to walk those areas.

While volunteers were not able to inspect the lagoon, Mario Rabago, deputy director with the park board, said the Coast Guard had informed park board officials that about half of the lagoon has been affected.

Kathleen Garland, an environmental management professor at University of Houston-Clear Lake, was one of the volunteers. She spent some of her time Friday morning inspecting some of the inland areas and waterways along Boddeker Road.

The Gulf side of the environment is pretty resistant, and oil is much more common there, Garland said.

“We leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico all the time,” she said.

But she said she would be much more concerned to see oil in some of the inland waterways.

While the ship channel and the East End areas have been more heavily affected, Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis said the beaches have seen little oil.

Along with the quick cleanup response, the weather also helped keep Galveston’s beaches mostly oil free, Davis said.

“We just haven’t seen a whole lot of oil on the beaches,” he said. “It’s not there hasn’t been any, but it’s been really minimal.”

After the day’s activity, de Schaun said she and others came away impressed with the level of remediation achieved by cleanup crews.

She said volunteers spotted some oiled vegetation and small tar balls along the shoreline.

“That’s probably to be expected as they continue to work right up the road,” de Schaun said.

Volunteers did not spot any oil contamination apart from a mild oil sheen, she said.

The group sent a report of what it found to the Joint Incident Command. De Schaun said Friday’s operation was successful in assuaging some of the concerns local stakeholders had about those sensitive ecological areas.

“Everybody was relieved to be able to get in and get an opportunity to look for themselves,” de Schaun said.

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com.

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