GALVESTON — Imagine a Stewart Beach that includes a raised boardwalk, restaurants and retail shops. One that includes a large shaded area for concerts, a gated area for pets and a modern pavilion for weddings. Imagine all that happening in the next five years.

On Tuesday, the Park Board of Trustees got its first look at a master plan that includes those things and more. The board heard a presentation from Knudsen LP, the urban planning firm hired earlier this year to study ways that the board could better use its two most popular beach parks — Stewart Beach and East Beach.

“The conceptual plan talks about what is the functionality and services that we want to provide,” said Park Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun.

The plan, which officials stressed was still in a draft form, paints a picture of a Stewart Beach that is divided into a number of “activity zones,” areas that are separated by features such as streets, boardwalks and landscaping dedicated to different kinds of uses.

The most striking part of the plan is the idea for the board to turn a large part of the park — the area adjacent Seawall Boulevard that is currently an empty field — into a boardwalk featuring restaurants and others shops.

“It’s kind of taking all the land and figuring out what we can do with it,” said David Hoover, one of the members of the group that developed the plan. “It’s a starting point.”

The area in question has been used before, Hoover said, perhaps most memorably as the location of a miniature golf course. The land has long been up for lease, and officials say they hope by developing a vision for the property it attracts some attention.

The plan also calls for things such as a covered parking garage and widened streets that could be reversed to accommodate the beaches traffic flow on high-use weekends. The group’s pitch also featured a similar, although less detailed, plan for the East Beach areas.

During the meeting, Park Board members were quick to separate out simple fixes that could be made to the beach parks now, such as rebuilt and landscaped toll booths at the park entrances, and things that will require more effort and thought in the future, such as a boardwalk area leased to restaurants and retailers.

“I don’t think this is what Stewart Beach is going to look like, but I think there’s an opportunity for us to take some of things that were presented and hopefully incorporate them into what Stewart Beach might be,” Park Board Chairman Melvin Williams said. “We want to make immediate changes, and the only things that we can do immediately are things that we have funds for now.”

Still, the plan was called by some officials as the most “realistic” master plan to be developed in years. The Knudsen team aimed to create a plan that was accomplishable within three to five years.

De Schaun said previous master plans — including a frequently circulated one developed in the 1990s featuring a crescent-shaped, multistory pavilion on Stewart Beach — did not account for some of the most critical aspects of the beach parks, such as paid parking, which is the largest revenue generator for the Park Board.

The plan laid out on Tuesday did not address the so-called “South Beach, Galveston” plan being promoted by District 3 City Councilman Ralph McMorris. That idea is essentially a proposal for the city to purchase land seaward of the seawall in order to prevent high rise development from being built on the beach, particularly in an area directly west of Stewart Beach’s boundaries.

Walter Preble, one of the supporters of that plan, told the board that the people behind that plan have a keen interest in what the Park Board does with its properties.

“What we’re looking at is a little bit larger scope than just Stewart Beach,” Preble said of the South Beach idea. “We’re looking at how this impacts the neighborhoods.”

After the meeting, Preble said he did not believe that the South Beach Plan and the Park Board’s master plan were in opposition to each other.

The Park Board has not met with McMorris nor anyone else is supporting that idea, de Schaun said.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

(8) comments

rah

so they do have money $$$$$ and not the -$$$ they say they have[sleeping]

Margarita Sims

Not sure we want more buildings on the beach?

Jim Casey

"Imagine a Stewart Beach that includes a raised boardwalk, restaurants and retail shops..."

Imagine a pile of splintered wood and rubble 20 feet high and a mile long after the next hurricane.

You don't need to imagine it, I'm sure photos of the post-Ike devastation are available online.

- Jim

rah

wannabe Fertitta builds wannabe kemah boardwalk to line pocket with 10k gold

Kevin Martin

It might be a good idea. I can rmember when you had a roller rink and a carnival. Those were good times.

You also had a pool bar, water slide and bumper boats all around that area in the early 80's through the mid 90's. Then, when you got hungry, you could walk right over to Christie's Beachcomber for a wonderful lunch/dinner.

However, that's when true local's ran it and it was very cost friendly. You let people like Fertitta, that think their local's, in and it will turn into some tourist trap just like everything else he puts his hands on.

Yea Yea, I know Fertitta was born here but has done nothing but made this city into some sort of tourist trap. I'm a 3rd grneration BOI and know how he operates. His food is horrible and his service is worse. He is, and always will be a crook.

Jim Casey

" I can rmember when you had a roller rink and a carnival....
You also had a pool bar, water slide and bumper boats all around that area in the early 80's through the mid 90's."

Where are they now?

I can think of several explanations. I don't know which is correct in any case.
- They were mismanaged.
- They were undercapitalized (which is a polite term for "went broke).
- They were destroyed by a tropical storm.
- Customers just found other places to spend their money.

The misquoted phrase, "If you build it they will come," simply is not true. Any business has to be in the right place, at the right time, in the right market (that is, customer base), and managed well.

- Jim

Ron Shelby

Sounds wonderful but that should be built on the seawall, not on the beach. Depending upon the extent of building, the insurance costs could be excessive. FEMA picked up a lot of cost for city and county repairs after Ike but there is no guarantee they will do it again.

Christopher Webber

We are "year one" into a seven year fiasco known as Charge for Seawall Parking. The way the ordinance was worded and approved by voters it automatically expires seven years after the first dollar is collected. In order to be renewed it has to be voted on and approved at the polls. I will vote against it. The money is not being used as promised. 75% was to be spent on improvements, 15% hold back for maintenance and 10% administrative costs. If they do not hold the election to renew it - then it goes away automatically. We were lied to. Using the money for purposes other than the voted ones could be called misappropriation.

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