At the end of July the Beach Access Committee will deliver the conclusions of months of research and deliberation to Galveston City Council in a final report. Every resident should pay close attention. The Texas General Land Office certainly will.
I’m not sure why the council asked this commission to work on Galveston beach access. It could've been to reduce the number of access points, or it might have been to come up with ways to monetize some or most. I'm reasonably sure it wasn't to verify our level of compliance with what Austin has on file. That’s why I think council may not be pleased with the product end of month if the full report isn’t sanitized by some members of this committee.
Developers and homeowners associations have found clever ways to block beach access over the years. In some cases, a development plan is submitted showing required beach access points and as the development proceeds, developers forget to open the planned access points or don't comply with a rule requiring one parking space for every 15 feet of linear beachfront restricted from vehicular access. rule.
In others, an owner association claims home protection requires a continuous dune line and simply dunes over the road or access points. Getting to the beach is like climbing Mount Everest.
Some take advantage of the destructive powers of storms by not restoring destroyed access points, and in some cases, associations petition the council to put up no-parking signs on one side of a city street leading to an access point reserving space for emergency vehicles then sit passively while these signs mysteriously migrate to both sides of the street.
Beach access points are one half of a contract with the state. The other half is the state indulging the city in keeping vehicles off the beach. If we violate our half of the deal, we could see vehicle access returned to Galveston so that our beach looks like it did when I grew up here in the 1950s and 1960s.
The access plan is also linked to seawall parking, Stewart Beach and other pay-to-play areas in Galveston. Our current beach is a house of cards only as strong as our compliance.
Why do I think council might be disappointed? Preliminary work within the group suggests that of the 50 access points on the state plan, 36 are minimally functional, 10 are less than minimally functional, and four are proposed. The four proposed sites are a failure on the part of the developer/association to accommodate beach access from the beginning. Also, these numbers don't reflect the many discouragements to access like illegal no parking signs.
Unlike past years, the current city management seems determined to enforce our access plan and the integrity of our contract with the state. Words like honorable and prudent come to mind given the stakes.
But there are members on the committee who are less than that, and possibly even an offender. Let’s hope these few members don’t dumb-down the findings before the report reaches council.