I read Daily News reporter John Wayne Ferguson’s recent paean to the public spiritedness of West End beach-front property owners for taking the bull and the expense by the horns to provide clean beaches for themselves and any other beachgoers who brave the imposing presence of huge million-and-more dollar houses close to the beach.

Their generosity is especially appreciated by all considering the many hundreds of tons of sargassum deposited on the beaches. It would be a pity to pay so much to build so close to the beach and not be able to frolic there as often as possible.

I’m especially grateful when I look out my front window and see the damage to 3- to 4-foot dunes forming at the beach edge and to vegetation by deep- treaded tractors pulling the “state-of-the-art” raking machines that purportedly don’t remove sand with seaweed.

Ours was the first house built in The Dunes of West Beach subdivision more than 16 years ago.

We have a front-row view of the beach raking operation commissioned by our homeowners association on our half-mile of beach front.

Excuse me for being overly and reflexively possessive. I know it’s not really our beach; it belongs to the people of Texas. Anyhow, it pains us because we know the history of what it took to build and to preserve this broad and high stretch of beach, dunes and vegetation.

Bill Rathbun, the first president of our homeowners association, came to us early on with a proposal to have the Park Board stop raking our beach, which it then did on all 30 miles of Galveston. He cited his research that showed that raking removed sand and vegetation, causing the beach to become lower and promoting further wave-induced erosion. He convinced the few of us, and we petitioned the Park Board.

At first Park Board officials resisted, but finally agreed with the proviso that they have Texas A&M University at Galveston monitor the results. Soon, it became clear that the resulting building up of the beach, dunes and supporting vegetation had elevated our beach and environs above our raking neighbors’ as evidenced by how much further back high-tide waters came on their beach.

This is especially noticeable on our neighbor Silverleaf’s frontage, where the beach is raked aggressively daily all the way to the dunes.

This is noticeable even to the naked eye. The Park Board subsequently suspended all West End raking.

Today, we have the highest and widest and the only accreting beach front on the West End.

My pain is not necessarily from the raking of the beach area but it is to the destructive maneuvering of the tractors breaching the 3- to 4-feet high beach-edge dunes and denuding the broad and lush dunes vegetation to dump the seaweed perhaps 100 feet back in the futile hope of forming a “super dune” protective wall built on an unstable seaweed base.

I can only cite the fate of the 16- or 17-feet tall dunes naturally formed on a firmer base of layers of sand and entwined vegetation that existed before Hurricane Ike. The mere 6- to 8-feet storm surge of Ike flattened these natural dunes.

There are those who look upon the dunes vegetation as “weeds” to be disposed of in favor of an open breadth of sand, an infinitely wide beach. One man’s weeds are the General Land Office’s dunes vegetation, which it recognizes as the glue that holds this island together.

Frank J. Bowser lives on Galveston’s West End.

(3) comments

Sydney Rosenfeld

I am so excited someone finally spoke up making me respond to today's guest column 'A Clean Beach At What Price.' Because I have not seen anyone support or speak up as I watched my boss suffer for the past 4 years to show real progress and results when the Park Board is removed from the beaches. It seems like the reporters work for the Park Board because all of the stories support their actions. My name is Sydney and I have worked on Porretto Beach in the East End going on four years now. I have watched Sonya Porretto maintain their beaches way before the Severance case was used as an excuse to cease raking and maintaining the private beaches along Galveston Island, Texas, ignoring the fact the public has access and uses these beaches at the shoreline. At first everyone questioned why she would request a Federal Judge to allow her to remove the Park Board from their beaches. When she was able to do so, each time she would attempt to communicate the severe damage the Park Board had been causing resulting in a perceived and misconception of natural erosion and unreal rates caused by scraping not raking no one believed such rationale so she was forced to prove it. We all watched from 2010 until today, Ms. Porretto proved by removing the Park Board of Trustees from Porretto Beaches at 6th-10, 14th-16th and 26th-27th they began to accrete rapidly both horizontally and vertically but still, no one would speak up and help or support her. We believe the fact her efforts were not supported or cared about is because the community again believe Sonya Porretto's actions are for herself or the Porretto case against the State of Texas GLO when in reality, the efforts are for the community for the entire community. As the Park Board who work closely with the Texas GLO annually request many millions of coastal funds for erosion and cleaning which are public monies, they are selectively applying them while the community struggles. Erosion rates are evaluated and utilized throughout many federal plans including FEMA. What do these rates do to the local taxes and insurance rates if they're exaggerated or altered. Do any of the Park Board members live on the Island and suffer the results of poor beach maintenance to acquire monies for erosion? If so, will this make them thinks twice and if they don't live here shouldn't they consider the reasons they don't live here and like Ms. Porretto help those who do live here see better way to maintain the beaches and proven successful. I've been able to watch current college students who worked for Ms. Porretto when they were in high school help her log the process and progress. From the time she removed the Park Board from raking the shorelines with excavators in 2010 until today many surveyors have confirmed Porretto Beach grew at aggressive rates and currently the highest "naturally" elevated beach in the east end adjacent Park Board maintained beaches. The sad part of this is Ms. Porretto had to pay a large price and lose a lot to prove these facts while criticized in the process. It's frustrating to see what the Porretto's had to go through and knowing I may one day suffer the same just to prove an agency supposed to be protecting and promoting beach erosion is causing it and receiving monies to do so.

Steve Fouga

Does the Park Board have a plan for replacing the eroded sand as part of an overall strategy? I can see where that could work. Clean beaches mean more tourists which means more money... But is it enough to pay for regular replenishment?

Personally, I'm fine with leaving the seaweed to the waves and tides, but I don't make my living from tourism.

Melanie Perry

I certainly hope that the property owners in our subdivision "Palm Beach" on the West End really read this article. For at least the past 10 years (and from my understanding a good 15 years before me), our subdivision has voted not to rake our beach. This year another group of property owners (noticed I said Property Owners - Rental Income - and not home owners) have formed their own group and have had our beach raked (since there is nothing to getting the permit and paperwork done now - you don't even need the GLO's approval anymore - thank you City of Galveston). Most of the vegetation has been destroyed (to which they say it will grow back). But most of these people will not be here when a storm comes in or a high tide hits and we no longer have our big beach or any protection because they had it raked. We also HAD a beautiful beach with vegetation and built up beach and dunes developing. But it is almost gone now. I truly appreciate your column. Wish you could attend one of our meetings, but the other party wouldn't show up anyway. Keep up the good work in your area and have a safe 4th. Thank you

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