The county is planning to increase its law enforcement presence on Bolivar Peninsula beaches in time for spring break.
As part of the new plan, sheriff’s deputies will be patrolling the popular beach spot with utility-task vehicles during the summer tourism season, potentially starting by spring break. Officials want the deputies to act as tourism ambassadors and enforce rules, including a beach sticker program requiring visitors to pay to park on the sand.
Expenses for increased enforcement include paying off-duty deputies and purchasing four new utility-task vehicles, which accommodate up to four passengers on bench seating. Last week, the commissioners court approved spending $57,000 to buy the vehicles outfitted with emergency lights and other equipment. These costs will be paid with funds from beach parking fees, officials said.
“When non-county residents come visit, we want to make sure our beaches are safe and there’s law enforcement,” said County Commissioner Ryan Dennard, whose precinct includes the peninsula. “The reason for the beach sticker fee is in order for the beach to be an attractive place for families to visit.”
Under state law, revenues for the parking program, which started in 2007, must be used to enhance services along the beach. Increasing patrols is one part of the plan to improve beaches on the peninsula, Dennard said. In July, the commissioners court allocated more funding to empty trash barrels on the beach more regularly.
The county has deployed extra deputies to the peninsula on busy summer and spring break weekends since 1993, but this is the first time some of them will be exclusively patrolling the beach, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said. Previously, deputies patrolled the beaches, but they also responded to crashes and crimes elsewhere on the peninsula, Trochesset said.
The sheriff’s office plans to patrol the beaches with three deputies at a time. Two deputies will drive the new vehicles, and one will drive a patrol unit to transport arrestees to the peninsula substation, Trochesset said.
Deputies will also educate visitors about the parking fees and other rules, including bans on bonfires, glass bottles and driving in sand dunes, Trochesset said. Campfires on Bolivar Peninsula are restricted to smaller, family-style fires, as opposed to larger and wilder traditional “bonfires.”
After deputies tell visitors where to buy parking stickers, they’ll begin writing tickets similar to parking citations for visitors who don’t follow the rules, Trochesset said.
“At first, we’re going to inform,” Trochesset said. “Then we’re going to enforce.”
Tickets cost $10. Visitors must have a sticker for any vehicle, including golf carts, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and cars. Until the end of February, tickets can be purchased for an early-bird special price of $5. Find more information at http://www.galvestoncountytx.gov/PS/Pages/BeachParkingStickers.aspx.