Galveston County will close 27 miles of beaches on Bolivar Peninsula to residents and visitors beginning Friday, the county announced Wednesday.
The closures are part of an attempt to keep crowds away from remote county beaches over the Easter holiday weekend, officials said.
The order closing the beach goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, according to the county.
At that time, “beaches in Galveston County are closed and must be vacated, all beach access points in Galveston County shall be closed, and ingress to beaches is prohibited,” the order said.
The closure will remain in place until at least April 17, according to the order.
The order applies to both residents and people visiting from elsewhere, said County Commissioner Darrell Apffel, whose precinct includes the peninsula. Sheriff’s Office deputies will be patrolling and ordering people off the beach, Apffel said. People who refuse to leave the beach after being warned away will be fined up to $500, according to the county’s order.
“We believe it’s the best course of action in order to meet the health and safety expectations for the citizens of the state and the county,” Apffel said.
The county’s closure comes 11 days after the city of Galveston closed its beaches to residents and tourists. After the city’s closure, county officials said they were hesitant to take similar measures on Bolivar Peninsula because they had not seen large crowds there and were fearful of dealing another blow to the area’s tourism-driven economy.
“I was trying to balance the risk against the commerce that was left on the peninsula,” Apffel said.
The county changed its posture after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the closure of Texas state parks and monuments.
Rain is expected this weekend, according to weather forecasts, but Apffel said there was still concern crowds would form on beaches Easter Sunday.
“With a three-day weekend and nobody in church, it concerns me that we might have the crowds,” he said.
Closure decisions will be made on a week-by-week basis, Apffel said.
It’s possible that closures could exist in some form into the middle of May, until the annual Jeep Weekend beach party, he said. Jeep Weekend is scheduled to begin on May 16.
The peninsula closure means only one beach access point in the county might be open this weekend. As of Wednesday afternoon, the beach access point in the small city of Jamaica Beach, in the middle of Galveston Island, was still open and people were still able to walk on the beach, City Administrator Sean Hutchinson said. The city has closed off vehicle access to the beach since March 31.