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Concerns raised over access to public beaches in Galveston

June 4, 2019
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In this June 3, 2019, photo LA narrow pathway leads down to the beach at an access point on Maison Rouge in the Pirates Beach community Galveston's west end. (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — City officials are pushing for clear signage indicating public access to some beaches in Galveston despite resident complaints about unmanageable crowds of tourists.

Carol Hollaway, chairwoman of the city planning commission, said residents have tried to deter tourists from visiting the West End beaches, the Galveston County Daily News reported.

“People tear down signs,” said Hollaway, who also sits on a city committee responsible for reviewing island dune protection and beach access measures. “They do all kinds of things to discourage the public. They post signs that say “Tow Away Zone.”

Cities along the Texas coast are lawfully required to maintain a public access point at least every half mile along beaches. Many of Galveston’s 41 access points are on the West End.

Peggy Zahler, vice president of the West Galveston Island Property Owners Association, noted the subdivision was never designed to deal with huge crowds.

“Everybody recognizes that it’s getting more and more difficult over the years to control the crowds, especially on holiday weekends,” she said.

She feels some visitors might be misunderstanding the state regulations about public access to the beach, Zahler noted.

Dustin Henry, the city coastal resource manager, agreed that tourists may be confused about where to get to the beach because the signs haven’t been well maintained.

The Texas General Land Office, which preserves state beaches and enforces the state’s Open Beaches Act, hasn’t received any official grievances about homeowners obstructing beach access, said spokeswoman Karina Erickson.

But awareness of beach access and signage indicating where the public can park is a concern, Erickson said.

“We are working with the city of Galveston to ensure that these concerns are addressed and will continue evaluating issues as they arise,” Erickson said.

For months, the city committee has been working on a series of proposals to reform the city’s beach access and dune protection plan, said Chairman Jerry Mohn, who is also president of the West End Propety Owners Association.

Mohn added that he doesn’t think residents deliberately impede beach access, but there are problems with signage that the committee hopes to fix in its recommendations.

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com

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