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

 Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

Managing Editor

(17) comments

David Schuler

Words could not describe how happy i would be to see a zero-tolerance beach litter ordinance voted on - and ENFORCED - as Laura describes above. It would mean that Galveston might have finally moved beyond the "If we change it or charge for it, they won't come!" inferiority complex that has plagued this community for years.

LouAnn Nichols


Kelly Naschke

I am all for the ordinance, but how do you enforce it? There is no violation until I the equipment is technically “abandoned”. At that point the people are gone. I did beach service for 25 straight seasons and know firsthand how difficult people on the beach can be to deal with. Years ago on privately owned Porretto Beach we would charge beach goers with their own canopies and umbrellas a fee to put up their own equipment. We would literally sit back and watch them struggle in the heat getting setup, which isn’t always easy, especially with the old tarp and pole setup, or try to screw an umbrella into to sand as if it was threaded, and when they were finally setup, we would make our move. “Excuse me sir (said by a really tan guy in a bathing suit with a moneybag) but in order to have this tarp on the beach, you have to buy a tent permit. The permit releases the owner of the property from any liability if your tarp should blow away and damage anyone or anything. A tarp your size will be $15 for the day”. And then we sat back waiting for the impending explosion of argument that no one owns the beach and that this wasn’t enforceable, and they weren’t paying, and the tarp wasn’t moving. We would have to call the police ALL the time. The beach cops all knew the drill.,.and they either paid or took it down.

David Schuler

Five AM - if it's there, and no one is there with it, it's gone. The most easily enforced ordinance there could be.

Wayne Holt

I agree with Laura Elder 100%, as well as David, regarding zero tolerance on trashing what is a common good that everyone should be able to enjoy. These are supposed to be adults who drive to the beach; why have they been permitted to act like spoiled children?

The highlight of Laura's story was the bit about past practice of having the city pay to retrieve abandoned property that was later claimed. I suggest that expensive solution be replaced with a novelty laugh box. You can get them for under $10 and it would be the perfect response to requests to return their abandoned junk.

Leigh Cowart

That's when the ticket book should come out!

Kelly Naschke

But neither are the people......

LouAnn Nichols


Miceal O'Laochdha

"The park board had discussed a year of public awareness campaigns..." Park Board moving way too expeditiously here. First, hire a consulting firm to conduct a study on the best way to structure the one year education campaign, then provide their report to a Blue Ribbon Panel to study the recommendations of the consultants, then seek Council approval to launch the "Do Not Leave Crap on Our Beaches" awareness campaign. But, is a one year campaign alone enough time for our beloved tourists to learn these radical new rules, or should we maybe make it one year of education and two more years of no-fine "warning tickets" before citing someone. Oh, and after they leave, who will be cited for the eventual violation? Much, much more study needed!

Jarvis Buckley

One thing that has always confused me is the hostile attitude islanders has against tourists.
Without tourist industry on the island 35 percent of our local business's that we all enjoy would not exist. Taxpayers , would be layering a wheel barrow load more property taxes. Tourists aren't the enemy . They are necessary if you like your way of life on this little lily pad. Enough with the pettiness please.

Kelly Naschke

Hey Jarvis.....the sky is turning dark....squall line coming in...beach service guys have been watching closely...close everything down as fast as they can...tourist sitting under his tarp totally oblivious....wind switches in a matter of seconds......tarp goes flying into an indescernible ball of nylon and aluminum and travels the length of a football field. Tourist rushes to the car as if it's the 1900 storm ....and leaves the what?

Miceal O'Laochdha

Indiscriminate worship of tourists is misguided. The kind of people who trash the beach are the same ones who spend little to nothing on local businesses during their visit. I think we would still have a McDonalds if those folks were not here to patronize it.

Kelly Naschke

Oh...and they left about 3 dirty diapers, a twelve pack box, a few empty cans...cigarette butts and and empty potato chip bag.

Jarvis Buckley

If folks aren't responsible, and trashy,
I agree they should be fined. Tourist or residents. Hope you agree .

Miceal O'Laochdha

I agree with Jarvis that those who cost us money by trashing the beach should be thought of the same whether tourist or resident. Like everyone else in the world, there are good and bad tourists and residents. However, the tendency to defecate in one's own bed is small. People who are headed back over the Causeway are far more likely to behave differently (worse) in Galveston than they would in their own neighborhood back home, resulting in the many forms of lousy behavior by tourists, not just on the beach. It is an unfortunate weakness of humanity to feel more free to behave badly when away from home and expecting no accountability. And that is the reason many Island residents are critical of the swarms of tourists.Just ask a resident of New Orleans about the behavior of the typical out-of-town "reveler" at Mardi Gras. That is where I learned this life lesson with remarkable clarity.

Jarvis Buckley

Laura - Very timely article , hope city manager reads it. I am almost certain he will.😀 ----One thing that troubles me is making tourists out to be the bad guy . Which some folks do. When in fact they should be considered our friends. Their tax money keeps Galveston prosperous .
Keeps sand on the beach. Improvements to the Seawall.
That's just my thoughts. I'm old enough I remember the brick road under the blacktop on Seawall Blvd .

Rusty Schroeder

I just got back from Charleston, SC. There is no comparison of it to Galveston, it made me realize just how far behind and off the mark Galveston is. From the City to the Park Board down to the public. No trash, no graffiti, no cigarette butts littering the ground, beautiful landscape, and public parks and fishing piers that are 1st rate. Trash and careless visitors should be Galveston's new motto, because nothing has changed over years of complaining about it. Remember the dirty diaper stories of years past? I have a ton of pictures, would love to do a story. I will definitely be back to visit Charleston, my wife and I loved it. And get this, a parking system that works and is affordable throughout the city and beaches,,,, unbelievable concept. rs

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.