GALVESTON — The island’s Beach Patrol is planning to put some extra eyes on the San Luis Pass this summer in the hopes of avoiding more drownings at the increasingly popular beach.
The Park Board of Trustees has approved spending $64,182 to provide a dedicated patrol unit at the San Luis pass on summer weekends and holidays.
The money had already been set aside in a park board contingency budget for the year, but required the board’s approval before being used.
“We wanted to do more out there,” Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis said. “It’s going to be a good thing because it will allow us to have one vehicle just focusing on that dangerous area and enforcing the city ordinance that says they can’t swim in there.”
Davis said the additional unit would be either a truck or an all-terrain vehicle carrying a personal watercraft.
A second unit — which already exists in the budget — will patrol the remaining 18 miles of the West End beaches. Unlike the beaches on the East End, the West End does not have stationed lifeguards.
Four people drowned last year at the San Luis Pass, three of them during Memorial Day weekend. Since 2002, 11 people have drowned in the pass’s strong currents.
In response to last year’s drownings, the city posted new signs urging people not to swim in area.
Davis said the West End, and particularly the San Luis Pass beach, have become more popular with visitors in recent years. He said he believes that many people do not understand how powerful the current can be around the bend of the island.
“The conditions have not changed out there,” Davis said. “The difference is that we’re seeing more people using it. It’s sort of become a new spot for younger people, so it’s not just fishermen who were out there a lot and probably have a pretty understanding of what the dangers are.”