Galveston Park Board of Trustees to Discontinue Voluntary Seaweed Maintenance
on West End Residential Beaches
Board Decision Comes After Texas Supreme Court Ruling Limits Open Beaches Act
GALVESTON ISLAND, Texas – Effective within a week, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees will no longer relocate seaweed on the island’s West End residential beaches – a decision made necessary by a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling that has limited the state’s Open Beaches Act.
The Park Board decision came with a unanimous vote during its regular meeting Tuesday at Park Board Plaza. The decision was a result of uncertainty surrounding the Severance v. Patterson ruling announced in March, which supports the property rights of private landowners on what had traditionally been deemed West End public beaches.
“While we are still coming to terms with the full impacts of the Supreme Court ruling we have decided to only maintain areas that are deemed public and are areas we are mandated to maintain,” said Dr. Craig Brown, chairman of the Park Board of Trustees. “Until the court makes a factual determination in regards to each residential beachfront property, or home owners sign public use dedications, we can no longer assume all beaches on the West End are open to the public.”
The Park Board – which receives no property taxes and is funded solely by Hotel Occupancy Tax and beach-user fees – is legally mandated to clean litter and pick up trash at Galveston’s public beach parks and Seawall beaches only. While seaweed is not included in the board’s mandate, it has chosen to maintain seaweed during the island’s peak tourism season to provide easier access to the Gulf of Mexico for visitors.
The board had managed seaweed maintenance on the West End of the island – which is lined primarily with private homes and vacation home rentals – on a voluntary basis only for subdivisions with proper permitting and when time and staff resources allowed. In order to provide this service, the board secured temporary easements from participating homeowner associations to allow public access to beaches the Park Board maintained, Brown said.
With Tuesday’s Park Board decision, homeowner associations on the West End of the island may choose to contract with private companies for seaweed maintenance needs – a method already taken by many West End subdivisions.
The Park Board is not allowed to completely remove seaweed from the beach due to its environmental benefits, and instead, uses heavy equipment to push seaweed away from the shoreline so that it can decompose on the sand. Brown said this process is costly, and extending the service to the West End was putting a strain on resources designed for public areas where the majority of beach-going tourists gather.
“It’s hard to justify taking resources away from our heavy-traffic tourist locations for private residential areas, even though it is our sincere desire to help wherever we can,” Brown said.
Tuesday’s Park Board decision on seaweed was motivated by a recommendation from the Beach Maintenance Advisory Committee (BMAC) in which the scientific community, environmental leaders, private citizens, tourism leaders, the island’s hotel and lodging industry and West End properties are represented.
Although the discussion centered on West End beaches, beaches along the East End of the island will also be affected by the decision. The Park Board will dedicate resources for seaweed removal only to those areas included in the organization’s mandate, including: R.A. Appfel Park, Stewart Park, Dellanera RV Park, the West End County Pocket Parks and the Seawall.
The Park Board will continue trash and litter pickup along the entire 32-mile Galveston coast.
However, in order to continue this service outside of public beach areas, the Park Board will require signed easements from every individual property owner on the beach.
The Park Board of Trustees oversees beach maintenance and tourism development on Galveston Island, including operations for beach cleaning, the Galveston Island Beach Patrol and the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information on the Park Board of Trustees, please visit www.galvestonparkboard.org.
About Galveston Island
Galveston Island is a historic beach town located on the Gulf of Mexico just 50 miles from Houston. The island is best known as a vacation destination, offering 32 miles of beaches, a variety of family attractions, Texas’ premier cruise port and one of the largest and well-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the country, including several National Historic Landmarks. Galveston Island is home to popular amusements such as, Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Waterpark, as well as a variety of museums and recreational activities from surfing to birding. For more information on Galveston Island visit www.galveston.com or call 1-888-GAL-ISLE.