City leaders have no plans to close the beach in this small west-island community, a decision that’s frustrating Galveston officials who say they’re trying to discourage visitors, conserve resources and prevent exposing locals to coronavirus.
The village’s 3,000 or so feet of beach attracts homeowners, not tourists, Mayor Steve Spicer said.
The independent city of fewer than 1,000 people is bordered by the beach and the bay and on the east and west by the city of Galveston.
“I totally understand why they did that,” Spicer said of Galveston’s decision to close beaches. “We don’t have a parking lot. Our beaches are a little different. It’s mainly just homeowners.”
Unlike in Galveston, where it’s relatively easy for visitors to find a space to park, there’s not a huge swath of parking in Jamaica Beach, so the city is unlikely to see a large influx of visitors walking on the sand, Spicer said.
“We’re tiny,” Spicer said. “We’ve got a tiny beach.”
Galveston leaders closed the beaches specifically to discourage tourists from gathering in crowds, they said.
Still, Galveston officials have expressed frustration that some beaches are still open despite pleas for visitors to not travel to the island.
Galveston closed beaches March 29 and two days later, March 31, Jamaica Beach shut off vehicular traffic on its beach.
But it’s not only about crowds on the beach, Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.
People who visit Jamaica Beach would pass through Galveston and are likely to use and further crowd Galveston stores, Yarbrough said.
“Jamaica Beach has no grocery stores of significance,” Yarbrough said. “They’re shopping and coming into our facilities.”
More people in the stores increases the risk of exposure for Galveston residents, Yarbrough said.
Bermuda Beach resident Jeff Marsee sees both sides, he said.
Marsee understands the intent of the rule is to keep tourists away but wishes Galveston beaches would reopen at least for part of the day to allow residents to walk or exercise on the beach in the mornings and evenings, he said.
“From what I’ve seen here, the majority of the locals are obeying the beach rule,” Marsee said.
Marsee doesn’t think it’s a problem for the beach at Jamaica Beach to be open, he said.
“I saw no evidence in this part of the beaches that people were clustering,” Marsee said.
Jamaica Beach also hasn’t closed its 168 short-term rentals.
Galveston issued orders about two weeks ago, first to boot out non-essential vacation rental guests and then non-essential hotel guests.
But many of the city’s rentals have voluntarily shut down and he only knows of six people in the city’s short-term rentals, Spicer said.
“I’m doing exactly what Gov. Abbott wants me to do,” Spicer said.