The Park Board of Trustees hopes that a joint meeting with the Galveston City Council next month can result in a custody agreement for Seawolf Park, the Pelican Island property that’s at the center of an interlocal agreement negotiation between the two groups.
Two city council members said on Tuesday they hoped the council and the board could meet about the future of the park at a meeting on Sept. 12.
The management of the popular park has become the main point of debate in discussions about an agreement that’s meant to define the roles and relationship of the city and the park board, the public entity that oversees island tourism and manages most of the city’s beach park.
The fact that such a meeting hasn’t happened yet is an example of the need for increased communication between the city and park board, some trustees said during a specially called board meeting called on Tuesday.
Discussions about the interlocal agreement, which is aimed at consolidating more than 50 years of agreements between the park board and city, have been ongoing for almost a year.
A proposal to reevaluate management of Seawolf and Dellanera RV parks and of the seawall paid parking program was included in a draft version of the agreement released early August as part of city council meeting documents.
While city and park board officials seem confident about coming to an agreement on Dellanera RV Park and seawall parking, the discussion about which entity — the city or the park board — should manage Seawolf Park, 100 Seawolf Park Blvd., has raised some questions.
The park board should retain ownership of the park because most of the visitors are from out of town, Chairman Spencer Priest said Tuesday.
While the city handles parks that are geared toward residents, the park board should be in charge of parks that are geared toward tourists, Priest said.
While some city officials have argued the park board shouldn’t manage Seawolf Park because it’s not a beach park, the park board does manage other non-beach aspects of tourism, Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.
“I don’t think that Seawolf should go because it’s not in the geography of the beach,” de Schaun said.
She considered it a park for the park board to manage because it caters to tourists, de Schaun said.
It’s a topic that the city council raised questions about last week during its meeting. Council members wanted more information on capital plans for the park, spending records and the city’s proposed plan if it were to retain management of the park.
But discussions about this park are an example of a perception gap between the city and park board, Trustee Marty Fluke said. Fluke is a new trustee who joined the park board in July.
This is a problem that can only be solved through frequent, open and transparent communication, Fluke said.
Fluke asked the park board and city to start meeting quarterly, a proposal the other trustees unanimously approved.
There should be more communication, District 3 Councilman David Collins said. Collins is the liaison between park board and council.
The city has not been good about providing clear directions and expectations to the trustees, Collins said.
The city should check in on the park board’s long-term plans more frequently, Collins said.
Discussions about the interlocal agreement have made it apparent there are some points of the park board-city relationship are not well defined, he said.
“It’s clear that it’s time for the city council and the board of trustees to do exactly what we’re talking about: have discussion, not between staffs,” Collins said.
While park board trustees are appointed by the city council, the board runs largely independent of the city.
Besides the fate of Seawolf Park, the park board and city have other items to clarify in the draft agreement.
The city council wants to see rolling five-year capital improvement plans for the parks the park board manages, Collins said.
The city and park board also need to clearly define the areas the park board is responsible for cleaning and how much the park board will charge the city to clean areas outside its normal jurisdiction, officials said.
The trustees, Collins and Mayor Pro Tem Craig Brown, who attended Tuesday’s meeting and is a former chairman of the park board, hope to host a joint meeting Sept. 12.
Such a meeting can be placed on the council’s agenda with the support of two council members. A final agenda for the Sept. 12 won’t be posted until the week before it happens.