Residents — many wearing “Save Bolivar” shirts — started lining up Saturday outside Crenshaw Elementary School more than an hour before a hearing about a proposed coastal barrier was set to begin.
“I don’t want this at all,” said Cissy Boyd, who lives in Tyler but owns a house on the peninsula. She drove four hours for the hearing.
“It will ruin the beauty of this place where I’ve been coming for years and years and years.”
Hundreds of people like Boyd turned out to voice opposition to a barrier they fear would leave thousands of homes between a wall and the Gulf of Mexico. By about 12:30 p.m., security officers stopped letting people into the building because fire safety restrictions limited the event to about 250 people, one officer said.
At issue for many residents is that computer files a coalition of environmental groups obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appear to show the barrier running adjacent to and north of state Highway 87 on Bolivar Peninsula and FM 3005 on Galveston’s West End. The line appears to leave entire neighborhoods exposed between the barrier and the Gulf of Mexico.
Corps officials stressed during their presentation that plans for the placement of any barriers were not finalized.
Other public hearings have drawn hundreds of people wanting to provide input about the barrier plan, but Saturday’s meeting on Bolivar Peninsula featured an organized group of opposition to the barrier.
“We’re a group of concerned citizens who created a website and sold T-shirts to raise money to send mailers to 5,000 property owners,” said Tina Landrum, who, along with Apryl Rinn, started the group Save Bolivar.
Some residents said they didn’t want the barrier system at all, while others said they wanted it along the Gulf-facing beach.
As with the previous public meetings, attendees were given one minute to submit verbal comments, and were also invited to submit written comments.
“I’ve owned homes here since the ‘80s and I’m offended,” said David Wilkerson “This is bad, no matter what happens. If you build this thing on the beach, tourists will stop coming. If you move it back, our homes are unprotected.
“And you’ve already made up your mind.”
Several local, state and federal politicians also weighed in on the matter.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush late Friday called for the corps to consider a 30-day extension to the public comment period and to hold a second meeting for Bolivar Peninsula, given the 250-person limitation, officials said.
State representative-elect Mayes Middleton called for the plan to be reworked after asking people in the audience who opposed it to raise their hands, which most did.
Galveston County Commissioner Darrell Apffel called for the line to be moved to the beach and told attendees he would ask the county to consider a resolution in support of that idea.
The peninsula meeting was not part of the corps’ original public outreach plan. It was added after local groups, including the Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, asked the corps to schedule a weekend hearing that vacation homeowners could attend.
More than 350 people attended a public hearing at the Galveston Island Convention Center on Wednesday evening, according to the corps. The island meeting was the best-attended of five public meetings held so far.
The first four meetings were in Winnie, Corpus Christi, Port Isabel and Port Lavaca. A seventh, final public hearing is scheduled Tuesday in Seabrook.
The public hearings are the only opportunity during the corps’ five-year study when people can in person submit public comments about the plan — including about where they think the barrier should be placed.
The corps also is accepting written comments about the barrier by mail or email through Jan. 9.