As a teenager, when I had free time one of my favorite things to do was ride my bike on the seawall. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s the beach was a big deal. Everyone I knew would ride bikes or hang out up there. Lifeguards and surfers ruled the day.

As you’d ride along the wall, you’d see pockets of people you knew sitting in the shade on benches that were part of planter boxes filled with palm trees. You’d stop and talk, then ride on to the next group. You’d run into friends on their bikes and ride with them awhile.

On Sundays all the high school sororities would haze their pledges and make them paint their faces, sing songs, crack eggs in each other’s hair and generally entertain the crowd that would always gather. Public bathrooms were spaced periodically along the way, as well.

On days with surf, I’d ride to my favorite spot with my board tucked under my arm and check out other spots on the way.

Part of the popularity of the beach during those years was a piece of a bigger puzzle related to the economy, trends in recreational activity, and a natural pendulum swing that happens with all kinds of cultural relationships, sports, popularity of specific things at a given time, etc.

But a big part was because the environment was so nice up there. It was safe and cared for by the city and county. Once it was used by some, they attracted many.

Almost 40 years went by without any improvements to the beach front. The seawall itself was maintained, but economic times and political priorities changed. We are lucky to have a beach because we still had beach-related tourism, but it wasn’t what it could be.

And suddenly there’s been a shift. Starting maybe a decade ago there began to be a groundswell of awareness that people have way more options for recreation than they did back in the day and we need to work to keep our tourist economy healthy. A good product attracts repeat customers more than anything else. Things started changing.

I have to take my hat off to our leaders in the city of Galveston, Park Board of Trustees, county and other governmental bodies for what’s happening and what has already happened on the beach front currently.

As you drive down the seawall, you now see first-class restrooms and landscaping being installed. But you also see giant wide beaches extending way farther than ever before, tasteful lighting, crossovers in key areas, a process where tourists contribute to continued maintenance, and more to come.

According to a study commissioned a few years back by the park board, each dollar you put into the beach for improvements, protection, sand replenishment, etc. brings $7 back to the community. It’s so wonderful to see our leaders planning for our future instead of reacting to whatever the crisis at hand is. And it’s encouraging to see a community taking care of a resource that provides us so much in return.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

(1) comment

David Doe

What a great article! I remember those days back in the 70's, and how far the island has come since those days. I remember driving on my dirt bike on the west end from SLP all the way to Jamaica beach and back. The Flagship and the Balinese. The old DQ. Anyone remember Reds?
Amazing how things have changed for the better. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

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