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.


Come spring break, beachgoers might not be able to leave their canopies on the sand overnight, a practice that costs the city money and time to police.

The Galveston Park Board of Trustees and the Galveston City Council are considering drafting an ordinance that would require people to take canopies they use for shelter and shade, along with other personal items, off beaches from sunset to sunrise.

In a two-week period from Aug. 22 to Sept. 2, park board beach maintenance crews picked up and dismantled 25 abandoned canopies, costing about $4,320 in manual labor, hourly wages, equipment mobilization and wildlife monitors, park board spokeswoman Mary Beth Bassett said.

This is a serious problem for crews trying to clean beaches, said Jesse Ojeda, operations manager for park board coastal zone management.

“This is what they’re confronted with almost daily,” Ojeda said. “There’s barely enough room for a crew truck to get through there.”

Sometimes, the park board must also pay for disposed canopies when owners seek their abandoned property, Ojeda said.

He sees this mostly on West End beaches, he said. In addition to canopies, beachgoers sometimes abandon barbecue grills, chairs and coolers, among other items, he said.

Some people leave these items overnight, but some visitors leave cheap canopies in the sand at the end of their vacations, Ojeda said.

The park board discussed a year of public awareness campaigns before enforcing an ordinance prohibiting manmade property on beach from sunset to sunrise.

But in a joint Nov. 15 workshop, city council members expressed interest in seeing something on the books by spring break.

“I’m not really sympathetic or worried about offending anyone who has such disrespect and disregard for our island home or public property,” District 4 Councilman Jason Hardcastle said.

District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole agreed that she’d rather see an ordinance implemented before the next tourist season.

“I don’t see any need for a year of soft language,” Cole said. “Let’s get our beaches clean.”

Abandoned canopies, and any abandoned property on the beach, are a danger to wildlife, said Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf program director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

“One day, our volunteer counted 253 tents left on the beach,” Steinhaus said. “The amount of stuff every year has increased.”

Steinhaus has seen turtles trapped in chairs, she said.

If a turtle on its way to a nesting area encounters a man-made object, the turtle could get confused, she said.

“They could do what’s called a false crawl,” Steinhaus said. “They could come up, run into it and turn around or go parallel along the beach.”

A few other options the city and park board are considering include a program to remove tagged items that went unclaimed after a few days, corrals at beach access entry points for canopies and a concierge service that sets up and takes down canopies.

The park board researched other coastal communities dealing with abandoned canopy issues, Trustee Victor Viser said.

“We looked at Destin, Florida, we looked at Pensacola, we looked at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other places,” Viser said. “They’ve really gone to this sort of zero tolerance approach.”

Regardless of the ordinance, education will be key, since owners of abandoned property couldn’t be easily tracked, District 3 Councilman David Collins said.

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


(5) comments

Byron Barksdale

Some of the "canopy cowboys" are the same type as resort guests who go out at the crack of dawn and put their belongings on the best chairs and tables around resort swimming pools, then head off for breakfast, a walk, the gym or whatever and return around 10 AM for "their reserved" best spot, Canopies left overnight are considered by some beachgoers to be their reserved spot on the beach for days. Zero tolerance (by resort pools and the beach) is best.

Leigh Cowart

What are they thinking? This behavior should have been nipped in the bud when the practice first started!! There shouldn't be ANY discussion. Throw down an ordinance NOW, post it...DONE!! Would your Momma have put up with that?

Roxann Bentsen Faulkner

How can this be enforced??

Jack Reeves

Some of these "visitors" have no idea that the tide will swallow up their "stuff" if left on the sand overnight. I have fished a couple of these junk canopies out of the surf, just to keep them from entangling birds or other wildlife. If they leave it, it should be up to the Park Board to dispose of it, give it away or sell it. It's litter, plain and simple and they should be fined for it, if they can be identified. I remember my Grandmother saying that the cost of cleaning up after some of these visitors will never be offset by the amount of money they "don't" spend with Island businesses.

Bill Broussard

I wonder what the City can or cannot do with the tents and canopies left on the beach by west end homeowners on what they say is “private beach” Although when a homeowner leaves them standing for a month, their private beach is actually land that may or may not be private land but most certainly is not their private land....somebody else paid for it then abandoned it long ago when their house washed away

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