Seawolf Park on Pelican Island has undergone millions of dollars in repairs over the last decade and now generates more than $1 million in revenue annually, park board officials said on Tuesday.

Despite those large numbers, the park and its management have now taken center stage in a management dispute between the Galveston City Council and the Park Board of Trustees.

After almost of year of discussions and meetings, the final passage of a sweeping interlocal agreement between the city and the park board appears to be largely held up by the fate of the park at the eastern edge of Pelican Island.

The agreement is meant to define what roles the city and the park board will take in managing the city beaches and parks, as well as how much oversight the city will hold over the board.

The park is a popular local fishing destination. It generated almost $1.3 million in revenue last year, according to the park board. The paid fishing pier alone attracted 80,326 visitors, according to park board records. Ninety-nine percent of the visitors to the park lived outside of Galveston, according to the park board.

While park board officials argue the park is a tourism destination and should be included in its portfolio of properties, a draft of the interlocal agreement proposes exploring different options for its management, including putting it under the city’s control or hiring a third-party operator.

Last week, the city council outlined a couple major concerns it had about the park, Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.

The council wanted to know where the park’s revenues go and when the park’s pavilion, which was damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008, will be torn down, Yarbrough said.

Like all other parks the park board manages, the revenues generated at Seawolf Park stay at the park, spokeswoman Jaree Fortin said.

The park generated $1.3 million last year and, after expenses, produced a net income of $236,106, according to park board records.

About 68 percent, $886,679, of the park’s revenue went to general operating expenses last year, according to records.

The state allows the park board to transfer a certain amount from each park to pay for the board’s general administrative costs, Fortin said. The rest of the money is sent to the park’s reserve fund, which the board uses to pay the up-front costs for disaster relief projects, Fortin said.

The board plans to demolish the pavilion this year, following years of discussions and planning.

The two-story pavilion building was damaged during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and has sat damaged as the park board sought the necessary federal approvals to rebuild the structure.

Yarbrough has expressed concern with how long the project has taken.

After several years of rejected proposals to the federal agency that would pay disaster relief money to repair the pavilion, the park board gained city council approval last year to demolish the pavilion, Chairman Spencer Priest said.

Now, the park board is awaiting a review from the state on whether or not it considers the pavilion a historic structure but is scheduled to spend $1.1 million to demolish the building, according to park board records.

This money would be reimbursed by the federal agency later.

Since 2008, the board has spent $4.2 million on capital projects in the park, according to the park board.

The board repaired a bulkhead, the ticket office, the parking lot and the two ships. It also replaced the fishing pier and has plans to expand it. A 2014 master plan shows a restaurant, water taxi to Galveston Island, dog park and RV park.

Although the park board signed an agreement with local developer Lamson Nguyen to build and manage an RV park, the park board ended that agreement when plans changed for a needed wastewater treatment plant.

The city this year received state approval to move forward with plans to rebuild a wastewater treatment plant damaged during Hurricane Ike, but the 5,000-gallon capacity plant that has been approved by federal disaster relief money won’t be enough for an RV park, park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.

Nguyen is still interested in the park and is willing to pay for a water line that would tie into a treatment plant near Texas A&M University at Galveston, he said.

But that proposal wouldn’t make financial sense, de Schaun said. There’s still an opportunity to put an RV park at Seawolf Park later, if the wastewater treatment plant is expanded, she said.

The park board and city council members hope to meet at an upcoming joint meeting to discuss the fate of Seawolf Park.

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

(5) comments

Susan Fennewald

Galveston residents should be given free use of Seawolf Park. The Park Board operates it as a strictly tourist activity. It costs $6 for a resident to park there. And another $6 to fish there. It would be nice to stop by to go fishing for an hour after work - if it was free for residents. The state has strict controls on what the Park Board/city can do with revenues from beach parks, but the same rules don't apply to Seawolf Park. The Park Board can allow residents to use Seawolf Park for free if they want to. And they can use Seawolf Park money any way they like - it doesn't have to stay with Seawolf Park - it can be used to pay salaries and bonuses, or replenish beaches, or anything.

Why do they keep trying to make more and more expensive "improvements" to parks? Who needs an RV park? A park needs picnic tables (prefereably covered), water fountains, and clean restrooms. That's all that's really needed to complement open spaces and fishing access.

Paula Morris

Well said and I wholeheartedly agree!! Especially about the RV park!!!

Donald Treadwell

Why not try to get the Battle Ship of Texas assigned to Seawolf Park?

Charlotte O'rourke

It is disappointing that Galveston’s parks are seen as just tourist destinations and dollars versus a great park to enhance and encourage residents to live here.

That type of philosophy is one of the reasons Galveston families keep moving off the Island.

Regardless of who manages Seawolf Park, it should be free to residents, and I’m in total agreement with Susan on this point. Stewart Beach could also be free to residents as the city owns the property where the parking occurs.

Starting putting residents higher on the list of importance, and we may start getting more people wanting to live here versus just playing or working here.

David Schuler

Just try driving there and you'll see why the USS Texas commission doesn't want anything to do with the location. The signage is awful, the road is bad, access across the elderly bridge is limited and all in all, getting there gives a VERY poor view of Galveston. I say the PB has had their chance to improve the park, and instead spent far too much time on their proposed replacement pavilion at Stewart Beach. Let the city try; it can't be any worse.

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