When I started here at the park board more than five years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the value the organization places on the natural environment, particularly, the island’s beaches.

Not only for the sake of recreation and visitation, but because of the recognition and understanding our team has when it comes to keeping our beaches clean and protecting the natural vegetation and wildlife that makes the island so special — for visitors and residents.

Now, that care and attention has been officially recognized with a prestigious designation. Galveston’s East Beach has been named as a pilot beach for the international Blue Flag Eco-Award. The award is one of five programs offered by the Foundation for Environmental Education. The award is bestowed upon beaches, marinas and tourism boats meeting more than 30 criteria for water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, safety and services, sustainable tourism and social responsibility.

A Blue Flag beach, marina or boating operator isn’t only a place to give a sense of pride to the community and to attract tourism, but it also promotes good environmental management and awareness. The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association is the U.S. National Operator for the Blue Flag award.

“The Blue Flag International Jury recently selected Galveston’s East Beach as one of four pilot beaches from across the United States by the Blue Flag International Jury,” said Annie Mercer, program coordinator of the association. “A pilot phase is mandatory for all new countries operating within the Blue Flag program. Pilots will work with partners to implement 33 criteria to promote sustainable recreation and environmental protection at East Beach.

“The park board staff have been pivotal in bringing this prestigious eco-award opportunity to Galveston. The Blue Flag USA program looks forward to accepting Galveston’s East Beach full application, and with great enthusiasm, raising Texas’ first Blue Flag.”

The association has been working with four beaches around the United States since last October to submit materials to the Blue Flag International Jury and determine their current level of compliance with the Blue Flag eco-award criteria. The International Jury met mid-April to review applications from all participating countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

“The park board of trustees has worked for years with our partners to steward Texas beaches on Galveston Island,” said Kelly de Schaun, CEO of park board. “The opportunity to validate this work at East Beach through the international eco-award Blue Flag will be a real game changer.”

Park board meetings are typically held at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 601 23rd St. and via livestream at www.galvestonparkboard.org.

Mary Beth Bassett is the public relations director for the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Park Board of Trustees.

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