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An important mission of the Park Board is to be good stewards of our coastal environment. Sometimes, this means our team has to make some decisions that aren’t the most convenient for some.
Case in point is the issue of canopies and other personal belongings left behind on the beach for extended periods of time. On the one hand, the items serve as a placeholder for visitors who plan to return to the beach. Leaving them in place means less work hauling them back and forth to a hotel or beach house.
On the other hand, the canopies and similar items, like umbrellas, chairs and beach toys, can cause a hazard to the environment and the animal and plant life that make their home on the beach and in the water. According to area wildlife monitors, nesting sea turtles are, particularly at risk.
The canopies themselves aren’t the problem. The fact that they’re left on the beaches for a prolonged period of time is the problem. Wind and high tides can push the items into the water, harming marine life and causing pollution.
Abandoned canopies also make for more work and added costs to the business of beach cleaning. Several months ago, the Park Board’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM) staff decided to tally the number of canopies left on the beach. During that two-week period, staff came across 253 canopies. While most of them were collected by their owners, 25 of them had to be dismantled and disposed of.
And, that’s not as easy as it sounds. CZM Operations Manager Jessie Ojeda said that many of the abandoned canopies have to be shoveled out manually and sometimes it takes wheel loaders to actually pull the canopies out of the ground. These activities come at a price, from the hourly costs for staff needed to physically remove the items, which can be time and labor intensive, to the hourly costs of the crew trucks and heavy equipment needed to complete the task.
It’s for all these reasons that the Park Board is working with the Galveston City Council to determine an ordinance to help combat the problem of abandoned canopies. For several months now, the Park Board has been working with the Galveston Bay Foundation to devise educational outreach aimed at making beachgoers aware of the risk these items pose to the coastal environment.
“Our staff has looked at what other coastal communities are doing to alleviate the problem of abandoned items on the beaches,” Reuben Trevino, director of operations, said. “We’re working with city staff and our conservation partners to find the best solution that will benefit the environment as well as visitors to the island.”
Park Board meetings are typically at 1:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesdays of the month at 601 23rd St.