Matt Jackson

Report: Galveston Needs to Improve Access to Public Beaches

A Southeast Texas city must provide better public beach access, more parking and new dune protection standards, according to a committee appointed by the city council to review management of the popular coastline.

The beach access and dune protection committee presented its suggestions to the Galveston City Council on Thursday after roughly a year of work that included visiting each beach access point, The Galveston County Daily News reported.

"I think the beaches are our greatest asset for Galveston," said Chula Ross-Sanchez, the committee's vice chair.

The committee's report aims to create standards to bring Galveston beaches back into compliance with the city's own access plan, and to protect beaches from erosion or other destruction.

Ross-Sanchez added that efficient beach management is crucial for the health of the Gulf Coast and to continue attracting more than 7 million visitors yearly to Galveston.

The report's primary recommendations included restoring access to 10 noncompliant access points, restoring the dune line and providing more parking and clear signage.

"There's some areas on the West End that are not really compliant and it's not their fault," Jerry Mohn, committee chairman, said. "The last beach access plan was in 2012, but there was nothing really done with it."

Dustin Henry, Galveston's Coastal Resource Manager, said now that the committee has completed the assessment, city staff will use the suggestions to present a list of potential actions for the council.

"A short-term goal is to fix nonconforming issues and then, if there are areas that we need to contemplate changes, those will be pursued by a possible plan amendment," Henry said.

The Texas General Land Office mandates a public beach access point every half-mile to maintain the public's right to use the beaches.

One of the most vital issues is establishing new beach upkeep standards to guide Galveston in the renewal of permits that expire this year, said District 6 Councilwoman Jackie Cole, who represents the city's West End where many of the committee's recommendations apply.

Residents have complained about unmanageable crowds of tourists at beaches in the West End. As the city makes alterations to how people access the beach, the residents should to be kept in the loop, Cole added.

"We have to balance the need of the visitors who come here with all the residents," Cole said.

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