Monday, July 4, 2011

West end wackiness

Happy July 4th, and no doubt many of you are heading to the beach to celebrate (good luck with that traffic).

No doubt as well that many of you have heard of the ominous-sounding legal battle for control of the Gulf of Mexico's beaches - those beaches on the west end of Galveston Island in particular.  I sure as heck am not an attorney so the usual disclaimers apply, but I'll recap with a very short and incomplete list of notable developments pertaining to this issue.  Then below this summary, I'll follow up with some observations regarding some head-scratching circumstances that are manifesting in the proverbial Real World:

Screengrab from: 
So what's the bottom line?  Does a public beach exist west of Galveston's seawall or not?

I can't even begin to speculate, but here's the question that I find most interesting at this point:  in the midst of all this ongoing legal wrangling, is anybody actually looking at what's happening with the beach?

Most of this stuff hinges upon the high tide line and the natural vegetation line in particular.
July 2, 2011
Line in the sand: west end roughly south of Isla Del Sol Drive.
There appears to be a high tide line visible.
And even though this may legally be private property, people were using the beach in the normal fashion during this holiday weekend.  I reckon there would be some gunfire involved somewhere if anybody attempted to interfere with their right to do so.
Here's where things get interesting:
the natural vegetation line appears to be trying to re-establish itself in areas considerably south of the current line of beach front homes,
...despite the fact that billions of dollars of potentially-private property hinges on the location of this line of natural vegetation and the legalities surrounding it, people are driving vehicles and heavy equipment through it, inhibiting its growth and generally weakening the stability of the beach which is still recovering from Hurricane Ike and earlier events such as Hurricane Rita.  Vegetation roots are critically important in holding sand in place, but they can't do that if they are torn up by motor vehicles, which is what's happening here, where a make-shift road divides and fragments the newly-growing clumps of plants.
Apparently the directive "Don't Tread On Me" does not apply here.  Where is that "Don't Mess with Texas" spirit when it's needed? 
Am I missing something here??

Are there some fundamental considerations that I just don't grasp, or is this situation a little bit bonkers?!

Some vegetation appears to be trying to recover on Galveston's west end.  Specifically it appears to be trying to extend itself seaward, which is the one desirable result that EVERYBODY can agree upon, and yet it's being jeopardized like this, to the apparent peril of the public and private landowners alike.

Is anybody even noticing that it's happening?  Not that I could tell from looking at the scene two days ago.  But of course, if this truly is private property, at this point maybe it's questionable as to whether the state or local governments could intervene to inhibit this type of damage.

Yes, the Texas Open Beaches Act and its attendant regulatory instruments (including Galveston's Beach Access Plan) do guarantee motor vehicle access to the beach, especially west of the seawall.  But at the same time, the destruction of dunes, dune vegetation, and wildlife is generally prohibited.
Excerpted from the City ordinances presented at 
Excerpted from the Galveston County Dune Protection and Beach Access Plan.
Bright lights, no big city:
Here comes another vehicle down the beach face.
I shake my head and wonder about the priorities and precedents being set here.  It's yet another example of the tangled web we weave, or, in this case, appear to be failing to protect the natural weaving of.
Is this ours, or is it theirs?
Was I trespassing two days ago when I took this photo,
or was I exercising my rights as a Texan?

1 comment:

  1. We assume everyone who lives along the Gulf Coast has the same knowledge and appreciation for the ways nature rebuilds and repairs after a major storm. No so. The following is an excerpt from a Letter to the Editor in the Galveston paper on June 29:

    "My wife and I came down and spent the day in Galveston for the weekend. It had been a couple of months since we had been there. We wanted to see the pleasure pier now that the Flagship has been removed.

    It was kind of sad to see. We were glad to see a couple of the new restaurants have reopened with new buildings, but what sticks in my mind is how nasty the beach was — all the seaweed everyplace and the huge hills and mounds of sand and seaweed piled up every part of the beach, even in front of the San Luis Hotel, which is normally the cleanest part of the beach. But that is a whole other story. There has to be a better way to clean the beaches. Surely, there is some kind of agricultural tool or implement that can pick up the weed and leave the sand...

    Chuck [redacted]
    La Porte"


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