At $750,000, the investment by the Galveston Island Park Board to help fund a project that would put up to 900,000 cubic yards of sand on local beaches is a bargain and one to support.
Trustees unanimously voted to use $750,000 from reserve funds. The Texas General Land Office also has committed $7.75 million to the project. The Galveston Industrial Development Corp. also pledged $2 million.
Beach reconstruction is a big deal — particularly on an island. Nature has a way of ebbing and flowing sand back and forth because of naturals tides, storms, and even an occasional hurricane. Beaches along Galveston Island will always be in motion.
The process of beach reconstruction is essentially moving available sand from point (or points) A — where it is not wanted, and depositing it at point B — where it is wanted and can serve beneficial purposes. Consider this a recycling program, of sorts.
Case in point, the remarkable beach reconstruction projects completed on the island in the past several years have transformed beachfront along a significant part of the tourist-attracting seawall. Not only did the projects change the face of large swaths of beachfront, but they also provided additional safety during storms and other weather events.
In addition to protection from storm surge, visitors enjoy seeing the new beaches, park board Trustee Victor Viser said.
“They were astounded by Babe’s Beach,” Viser said. “It’s just such a positive for the community.”
The Babe’s Beach project, which begins just west of 61st Street and is named after former lawmaker A.R. “Babe” Schwartz, benefited both residents and tourists, board Secretary Maureen Patton said.
“It’s also been a huge boon to the economy,” Patton said. “We are doing something amazing for the community. I think they feel like it’s theirs.”
Now the Army Corps of Engineers has identified a significant amount of sand it needs to move from the Galveston ship channel to ensure safe passage for commercial and other traffic. And while the cost of the project is estimated to be $10.5 million, the park board can get in the game for $750,000 — 7.1 percent of the project cost.
The sand should be enough to begin beach construction from 61st to 90th streets, park board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said.
“We’ll head toward the pier at 81st Street, and pull back from the pier and then we’ll jump to the end of the seawall where we can mobilize equipment,” de Schaun said.
Taking advantage of these opportunities is important for the island. Key to this opportunity is that the large volume of sand available will hold down the overall project cost. From a cost structure, the up-front costs of setting up to spread the sand on the beach are far greater than the cost of the sand, de Schaun said.
The park board, along with city and land office partners, completed three sand replacement projects in recent years between 10th Street and the Dellanera RV Park for more than $45 million.
The 2019 project would start in April or May and should be finished by mid-summer, de Schaun said.
This type of project — and investment by the park board — is exactly the type of economic investment that needs to continue. Beach reconstruction allows for the island to improve beachfronts along the seawall at a fraction of what the might otherwise be. Factor in the additional buffer against weather events, and it is difficult to argue against such an investment.
• Leonard Woolsey