Beach canopy ordinance

Jesse Ojeda, operations manager of coastal zone management for the Galveston Park Board, shows a few of the abandoned canopies crews have picked up on beaches recently. During the summer season, the dumpster was full of abandoned canopies, he said.


People who leave tents or canopies on the beach overnight might not find them in the morning.

The Galveston City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a rule that allows cleaning crews to remove canopies and other personal items left on public beaches from sunset to sunrise, a move that follows similar rules in other coastal tourist towns.

The new ordinance, dubbed the “leave no trace” rule, gained significant support from the city council when Galveston Park Board of Trustees staff proposed it last year.

The park board cleans and maintains beaches.

Canopies and other beach items left overnight make cleaning difficult for crews and confuse and harm wildlife, park board officials have said.

Council members showed an eagerness to get the rule on the books in time for spring break, which brings flocks of tourists to Galveston in March.

“I don’t want to phase in,” District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole said. “I think we need to adopt this and get on with it.”

Such enthusiasm was encouraging to the park board, Director of Operations Reuben Trevino said.

“Being sensitive to our environment is an important piece of the park board’s mission,” Trevino said. “This ordinance will give us the leverage we need on the beaches to help enforce that effort across the island.”

In a two-week period from Aug. 22 to Sept. 2, park board maintenance crews picked up 25 abandoned canopies, which cost about $4,320 in manual labor, hourly wages, equipment mobilization and wildlife monitors, according to park board reports.

“It’s important to keeping the beach clean,” said Rhonda Gregg Hirsch, a member of the city’s beach access committee. “It’s incredible how much is left out there. It’s a shame we can’t have a garage sale at the end of the summer.”

The canopies can confuse or entangle wildlife who try to crawl over the beaches, said Theresa Morris, Gulf program coordinator with Turtle Island Restoration Network.

“As the sea turtles come to shore, they’re trying to reach the dunes, but unfortunately, they’re blocked by the debris,” Morris said.

The rule is effective immediately, but the park board has plans to phase in enforcement, park board spokeswoman Jaree Fortin said.

Until May 24, staff members will tag canopies and other items and allow owners two nights to remove their property. After this, staff members will remove and dispose of the canopies, chairs, coolers or other items, Fortin said.

From May 25 to June 29, staff will allow property owners only one evening to remove tagged items from the beaches, Fortin said.

Full implementation begins June 30, when park board employees will discard items when they first notice them between sunset and sunrise, Fortin said.

Implementing the ordinance may prove somewhat of a challenge, City Manager Brian Maxwell said.

If someone moves a canopy or removes a tag, but still leaves it up overnight, crews might face a challenge, he said.

“All of this becomes very nebulous when we try to enforce this,” Maxwell said.

By spring break, the Galveston Bay Foundation hopes to have ready a public awareness campaign that will teach people about the rule, foundation spokeswoman Claire Everett said.

The foundation, park board and city plan to develop signs to tell visitors and residents to remove their personal items.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(12) comments

Rusty Schroeder

Sea turtles being obstructed from reaching the dunes by canopies left overnight on the beach, Priceless. I am 100% in favor of removing canopies, chairs, coolers, etc. left on the beach, but to seriously say they are detouring or entangling the turtles is a stretch of astronomical limits. For one thing how many nesting turtles are on the west end of Galveston ? Next, does anyone have a video, picture, or have talked to a turtle that was obstructed on it's path to the dunes by a canopy ? I have seen turtles at SLP and in West Bay as well as offshore. Never has one said to me, "Rusty please remove canopies from the beach". But I have heard a couple ask me, " Rusty please remove this fish hook from my mouth and let me keep on swimming around", to which I gladly did without question. I mean it's hard enough dodging canopies on the beach, not to mention with a fish hook in your mouth.

Bill Broussard

I would like to know councils mind on west end beach. I can hear it now “ those canopies are not on public beach, they are on private beach. “ the trouble is that private beach belongs usually to someone else who left when the sea took it and hardly no one has gotten written permission to use the owners beach!

Cindy Bryant

There are no private beaches in Texas

Bill Broussard

Cindy. Unfortunately, around 2010 Carole severance chased her claim to her submerged property to the Texas Supreme Court that ruled Texas can claim ownership of beach that has secumbed to erosion and the house that was on it. BUt not if the house was taken by a hurricane. Since at least three rows of houses on the west end had been destroyed by hurricanes west Enders use the severance decision to say that all he beach from dune to 200 ft from mean low tide still belongs to the original owners and so they have every right to call it a private beach. As a result the GLO has refused to do any sand restoration on the west end and the Park Board has refused to provide services like seaweed and trash pickup

In short, the offended agencies have chosen to let the west end end erode

The west end still has to provide beach access but that’s so the public can get to its meager 200 ft mean low tide.

I think this stupidity has cost the beachfront owners much more than it was worth but it’s easy to see why everything these folks lobby for (sand engines, Ike dike, etc ) all leads to sand at the end...they erode a measurable amount each year

When it comes to sand you simply will not hear them even mention “private’ but let the park board try to take their semi permutations shelters and you’ll hear it ....if the park board even wants to enforce it.

Since every protective sand dune sits on this “private beach” and I bet at best 5% of the property owners who used to have a house there have signed off in a dune on their land, I think the use of others land ( if it is such) by HOA’s for dune bases negates all claim to private property and. Supreme Court ruling by years of use in a way that is quite public

The current strategy is not not bring the topic up in public and hope we’ll forget while the homeowner organizations do whatever they can think of to block beach access to the public like I noted in a previous entry

Ask the city. They now have a complete record of how many access points have been blocked

Bill Broussard

When you shrug off "wildlife" as Turtles you do TRAGIC miscalculation. "Wildlife" refers to privileged drunk teenagers who's parent own a beach house. They run into poles ALL THE TIME.

Bill Broussard

Cindy. I’m sorry I should have noted the Severance decision only applies to the West End of Galveston. Interestingly no other coastal city I know of has sued to expand it to their beaches. I think they saw what happened to Galveston’s west end and were in no rush to have it done to them

George Croix

For the environment!
For the turtles!

Well played......

Rusty Schroeder

Claire Everett could use your slogans in her public awareness campaign...… :)

George Croix

Their not mine.
I just borrow them from the usual suspects......being unable to out-hyperbole them......[whistling]

Jarvis Buckley

The WestEnd beach is public. Bill go walk the beach on WestEnd & find one person to say it's their beach. Believe I'll go buy a lot and fence it down to the waterline. How ridiculous

Bill Broussard

Jarvis: Calling it private up from 200 ft mean low tide is a matter of convenience on the west end. They would never say that when the GLO is around but they throw it out at about every homeowner meeting I've been to.

Several Pirates homeowners have what almost is a stationary, sunk in the ground tarp for the entire summer. You watch--they will claim its on private land and the ordinance is for public beach. Meanwhile, they will not have the landowners permission to plant it there.

IO just had a disability access opened at pirates for the second time in six months. Before I opened it the first time by informing the GLO both times.Before that, it had been blocked off for years.

Just wait and see if the City includes their "private beach" in the ordinance. i bet not

Jarvis Buckley

Bill I respect your knowledge.

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