In May, the Galveston City Council voted 5-2 to remove the special-use designation and eventually bar motor vehicles from East Beach. The East Beach special-parking provides year-round beach parking and access for for anglers, disabled people, and boaters with non-motorized watercraft. Without this special-use parking, there will not be any beaches on the island with practical beach access for surfers, kayakers, and SUPers. Either due to long distances or likelihood of getting stuck in soft sand, there are no other practical beaches with access for the beach-goers served by this protected parking lot. This closure has greater repercussions since it is designated specifically for folks with disabilities. The Galveston City Council believes there is “not enough use to justify” the parking designation despite the fact that for the disabled people it supports, it is invaluable, as one of the only accessible beaches in the area.
The area in question at Stewart Beach is divided into two parcels. The General Land Office (GLO) requires any eliminated beach parking to be replaced by off-beach parking. Only one of the two parcels has met the required number of off-beach parking spaces, so only the parking associated with that parcel has been discontinued by the ordinance passed in May. In the meantime, the owner of the land behind the remaining parcel is working feverishly to identify off-beach parking alternatives so that on-beach parking is no longer allowed there, either. Fortunately, the parking area closing first is the farthest away from the current entrance. However, the City Council has made it clear that they want to remove all vehicular parking on the beach.
Surfrider Foundation representatives have met with the mayor and council members who opposed the ordinance and has sent letters to the City and the GLO. The City Council has submitted their ordinance to the GLO and are now waiting on a response.