The East End Lagoon Park and Preserve, a 680-acre natural area on the East End, is a priceless asset. Galveston residents ought to remind their representatives that it’s time to make something of it.
An enormous amount of time and energy went into acquiring the land and creating the preserve. One of the last big steps was acquiring the site of a long-range navigation station from the federal government.
In 2010, the city hired a consultant, AECOM Planning & Design, to develop a master plan.
The plan envisioned a visitors center that would be built, in phases, on a long pier. It would eventually include an educational area, retail space and a viewing tower. The plan was imaginative, beautiful and expensive — something like $6 million or $7 million.
Since that dazzling plan was unveiled, not a great deal has happened.
We’d suggest it’s time to make a distinction between short-term and long-term plans and to get started on short-term improvements. After all, the original goal was to set aside the natural area and encourage people to enjoy it.
So, instead of focusing on the multimillion dollar center, why not start by marking the entrance and welcoming people to explore the area? Work on the hiking paths. Set up bollards and chains to protect the wetlands around parking areas. Clean up the place. Encourage people to enjoy what’s there.
Long range, the preserve could be a much larger tourist draw. It might become a part of the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area, a project championed by John L. Nau III.
But to reach its potential, the preserve is going to have to be a place that people go to. The more people who visit the preserve, the more will support efforts to improve it.
The next step is to have a public discussion about having the Galveston Park Board of Trustees to manage the preserve.
There’s been some discussion of that, and the park board officials have suggested that what the preserve needs now is a full-time person to manage it.
Longtime readers can guess the sticking point. Where does the money come from to pay for that? Will expenses be covered by funds controlled by the Park Board or by the City Council?
That’s the discussion that needs to occur at a meeting that the public has a chance to attend.
Where to start that discussion? How about a discussion of two suggestions that might or might not be true.
First, the Park Board could do a better job at this point than the city in managing the preserve.
Second, funds from the 4B sales tax are a logical source of revenue.
• Heber Taylor