After the Park Board of Trustees stopped allowing private companies to operate under its federal beach-cleaning permit, some West End residents are worried a heavy seaweed season could leave their beaches inundated.

Last summer, the park board decided to stop allowing firms to operate under its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit after cleaning methods sparked ire between a company and an island environmental group.

Now, West End residents want the park board to step in.

“Beaches need to be cleaned on the West End,” said Bob Dolgin, president of the Sandhill Shores Property Owners Association.

The property owners want the park board to clean the beaches, when necessary, and would be happy to pay for those services, Dolgin said.

State law requires the park board to remove litter and debris, but doesn’t mandate the removal of sargassum, a type of seaweed, because it has ecological benefits, park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.

The corps permit allows the park board to operate heavy equipment to clean the beaches. Heavy equipment is required to remove large amounts of sargassum.

Because some beach land is privately owned, some residents were concerned about using public resources on private land, de Schaun said.

“For this reason, the park board passed a policy in 2012 that it would remove seaweed only from those properties that are managed by the park board and are squarely in the public domain,” de Schaun said.

Only one company, Beachside Environmental LLC, previously operated under the park board’s corps permit.

The decision to not allow the company to use the park board’s permit has hurt business, owner Hernan Botero said.

“Now they have no one to clean the beaches and it’s going to be devastating for the economy of the island and for the property values,” Botero said.

The company last year received pushback from environmental group Turtle Island Restoration Network, which promotes turtle populations and beach health.

“Sargassum is beneficial to the beaches,” regional Program Director Joanie Steinhaus said. “We’re a barrier island. It helps to hold sand in place. It’s a source of nutrients for our birds.”

Cleaning excessive seaweed can be done, but it needs to be handled with care, Steinhaus said.

In July, Beachside Environmental LLC sued the restoration network and Steinhaus, claiming she defamed the company with false statements.

Beaches need to be handled with care, but cleaning up seaweed would help the park board’s tourism efforts, said Jerry Mohn, president of the West Galveston Island Property Owner’s Association.

“We hope we can prevail upon the park board to do the chore for some of these neighborhood associations,” Mohn said.

Mohn doesn’t think it makes sense for a company to try cleaning the beach, he said. Because the corps’ permit only allows seaweed clean-up in certain conditions, it’s an unreliable business model, he said.

The park board will discuss options Tuesday to prepare for the possibility of a heavy seaweed season.

It took the park board about two years and cost $100,000 to get its permit, which it obtained in 2017.

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

(17) comments

Rusty Schroeder

"their beaches" , finally an admission :)

Stephen Murphy

They can thank Carol Severance.

Jarvis Buckley

San Luis , don't guess the park board will be cleaning their beaches either.
Many tourist use WestEnd beaches.
Many East end & downtown residents also. Seems like this
EastEnd dislike of WestEnd seems to be getting worse. Bet the city doesn't mind taking their tax money though.
Jealousy is a horrible thing.

Don Schlessinger

Brian Maxwell, please tell us the City of Galveston and the Park Board will not use Galveston taxpayers money to clean private property. Please tell the taxpayers of Galveston will not see a penny of our money going to private property owners who work hard to keep Galvestonians from being welcome on beaches on the west end.

Gary Miller

They can tax private property buy can't clean private property?

George Croix

If that's wrong, then I want a refund for the cost of all my Snapper mowers and Echo trimmers, and back pay for the thousands of yard mowings......[beam][beam]

George Croix

"Heavy equipment is required to remove large amounts of sargassum."
No, it's not.
Heavy labor can do the same thing, just takes longer.

Let the effectively private beach owners get out on their property with a rake and wheelbarrow and get to work. Lowes has a sale on rakes......

Jarvis Buckley

I have never known of anyone not welcome on Galvestons WestEnd beaches . Such pettiness. Embarrassing.

Don Schlessinger

Then you don't live in Galveston!

Rusty Schroeder

Sir, remove the bollards restricting access. That is all I have ever asked for, make the beaches accessible to all. My specific point is just for beachfront subdivisions, not against the entire west end residents. I love the west end and the beaches, I don't like having to haul a cooler and chairs 500 yards to access a spot that has a little bit of privacy. These beach front homes can walk right out their backdoor and bring tents, chairs,coolers, etc. with little or no work involved. I want to be able to drive my truck and back up to the gulf on the beach. Unload my truck and listen to my radio, enjoy the beach. Not parking and walking because they don't want me on "their beach" unless I walk and carry my stuff, so I go across the bridge where freedom still exists. Remove the bollards and clean Texas' beaches.

Don Schlessinger

Thank you Rusty, I too believe there are many fine people on the west end. My disagreement is with beach front property owners.

George Croix

I was BOI, but I was transported off island the next such, I don't speak Galvestonian and am not up-to-date with the specific symbolism and mannerisms of the Islanders.......

Does a raised middle finger on the West End mean something different than it does anywhere else.....[wink][whistling]

Jarvis Buckley

I did for 15 years Don walked WestEnd & EastEnd beaches.
Not quite sure you know what your talking about. Have you ever walked WestEnd beach & have anyone tell you get off their property of course not . Police cars drive WestEnd beach from one end to other keeping golf carts & cars off the beach park board trucks drive the beach . I was walking Galveston beaches before you were born. Get over your prejudice . It makes you look bad.
That good friendly advice.

Don Schlessinger

You must be very old. I'm 75 and have walked the west end beaches many times. But that's not the point of all this, FREE access to open beaches to Texans, and islanders is the point. Having bollards erected at points of access is NOT access. As Rusty above said, I don't want to have to drag my gear reaching a nice place to enjoy the beach. Not one penny should go to cleaning seaweed from private property on Galveston west end beaches.

Jarvis Buckley

I apologize we are the same age . I just hate this us against them rhetoric .

Shar Yates

It was always my understanding that the bollards keep the beach safer. Families with children are playing and having a good time. The bollards keep the children safe from vehicles driving on the beach. It is also better for the environment to not have all of that traffic running over the beach. It may be a pain to walk a little bit but once you find a spot, you can peacefully and safely enjoy the beach.

George Croix

For the children.
For the environment.

Well played......

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