The time for being nice is over.
The city of Galveston and the Park Board of Trustees should drop any plans to spend a year “educating” beach users about leaving canopies on the beach overnight and immediately begin enforcing a ban on the practice.
The park board had discussed a year of public awareness campaigns before enforcing an ordinance prohibiting manmade property on the beach from sunset to sunrise.
The canopies are an expensive and environmental problem. Canopies in and of themselves aren’t the real problem. People use them for shade. But some also use them to stake out prime beach spots. Some just abandon them permanently, trashing the beaches and leaving a mess for park board crews to clean up.
In a two-week period from Aug. 22 to Sept. 2, park board beach maintenance crews picked up and dismantled 25 abandoned canopies, costing about $4,320 in manual labor, hourly wages, equipment mobilization and wildlife monitors, park board spokeswoman Mary Beth Bassett said.
Sometimes, the park board must also pay for disposed canopies when owners seek their abandoned property, park board officials say.
No one should have to ask someone not to leave trash or discarded items on the beach, but it’s the reality we live in.
A year of educational campaigns isn’t likely to sway people who would abandon canopies, barbecue grills, chairs and coolers, among other items on Texas beaches. What’s needed is a clear and unambiguous ordinance.
District 4 Councilman Jason Hardcastle was spot on when he said: “I’m not really sympathetic or worried about offending anyone who has such disrespect and disregard for our island home or public property.”
So was District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole, who said: “I don’t see any need for a year of soft language. Let’s get our beaches clean.”
The city, without delay, should move straight ahead with approving and enforcing an ordinance that would require people to take canopies and other personal property off beaches from sunset to sunrise.
The city and park board also are considering including a program to remove tagged items that went unclaimed after a few days and corrals at beach access entry points for canopies, among other options.
The park board has researched other coastal communities — Destin, Florida, Pensacola and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina — dealing with abandoned canopies, Trustee Victor Viser said earlier this month.
“They’ve really gone to this sort of zero tolerance approach,” Viser said.
Galveston should be a part of that trend and have new rules in place by spring break.
• Laura Elder