Everyone wants a prime spot along the beach, but what’s the proper way to secure it?
Leaving tents or umbrellas staked out overnight isn't the answer, residents and officials say.
On Thursday, volunteers with the Turtle Island Restoration Network counted 253 unaccompanied tents and umbrellas between the Galveston Island State Park and the San Luis Pass, Executive Director Joanie Steinhaus said.
Each morning, volunteers from the group walk the beach combing the dunes and grounds for stranded sea turtles. They also take note of the trash, umbrellas and tents left out overnight. Tents were out Friday and Saturday morning, too, Steinhaus said.
The tents and umbrellas left overnight are a nuisance to crews cleaning the beaches, namely the Park Board of Trustees, and can end up blowing into the Gulf of Mexico and creating litter in the water and dunes, Councilman Craig Brown said.
“Sometimes, the tide washes them out or the wind knocks them over and blows them around,” Brown said. “It also prevents good beach cleaning.”
Brown researched different ordinances aimed at addressing the issue, including local rules in Florida, where people have to keep tents off the beach from midnight to 6 a.m., he said. There also are signs in those areas instructing people not to leave items behind overnight, he said.
As it is, beach-cleaning crews from the park board don’t remove canopies or tents they come across, Brown said. The city also doesn’t post signs informing people it’s illegal to leave tents out overnight, he said.
Brown and Councilwoman Jackie Cole could soon bring some ordinance proposals before the city council to discuss in workshop, he said. The city would likely need to pass an ordinance that could include posting signs or making it a violation for beachgoers to leave anything out overnight, Brown said.
The ordinance, though, would probably be managed and enforced by the park board, which oversees beaches, he said. But the city council would need to get feedback about how to write an ordinance that wouldn’t negatively affect anglers who fish off the jetty or beaches overnight, Brown said.
Cole supported Brown’s idea to consider ordinances relating to the issue, she said.
“It is an issue that we need to be looking at,” Cole said. “It makes it hard to clean the beach and hard to know which one is abandoned and which one is not.
“And if people leave them up, and we have a storm, half of those things are going to blow into the Gulf or the dunes where someone else has to clean them up.”
Rules barring people from leaving things out overnight might not solve the entire problem but could help, Cole said.
“It’s great people have tents,” Cole said. “We don’t need any more skin cancer and, as a vet, I’m happy if they have it for their dogs. But they don’t need to be left out when people aren’t using them.”