GALVESTON, Texas – Galveston Island State Park, shut down for the last six months due to extensive damage from Hurricane Ike, will welcome day users to the bay side of the coastal park on Saturday, March 21. The beach side of the park, which sustained significant damage, remains closed to the public for facilities demolition and debris removal.
Hundreds of volunteers have pitched in to clean up storm damage and remove considerable debris on the bay side of the 2,000-acre park, and to convert the Nature Center into a Welcome Center. The bay side of the park will be open from sunrise to sunset on Saturdays and Sundays through November. The Welcome Center, which will be operated by the Friends of Galveston Island State Park, will be open weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. No entry fees are being charged.
“The friends group and volunteers have been of great assistance in helping the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department accomplish its goal of allowing public access to Galveston Island State Park while we obtain funding, finalize our master plan and complete necessary environmental clearances to build a new park,” said Justin Rhodes, regional director of state parks in southeast Texas.
For the time being, there is no overnight camping at the park, but visitors can enjoy bird watching, hiking, fishing, crabbing, paddling and other outdoor activities. No license is required to fish inside the state park. The fish-cleaning station on the bay side was severely damaged, but a kayak club is in the process of rebuilding it in time for the March 21 opening.
The Texas Department of Transportation, operating under a directive from Governor Rick Perry to assist governmental entities impacted by the massive hurricane, has been leading efforts to demolish structures and remove debris on the gulf side of the park. TxDOT’s assistance is estimated to have saved the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department money it didn’t have budgeted, while TPWD waits for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
TPWD is looking into possibly moving beachside facilities further back from the shoreline and re-establishing a larger dune field and dune line. Preliminary estimates place the cost of rebuilding the park in excess of $60 million.
“Not only has TxDOT saved Texas taxpayers about $2.5 million, but they enabled us to meet critical FEMA deadlines for debris removal,” said Tony Bettis, TPWD’s regional project manager. “It also will enable us to meet a deadline to have all beach debris removed by month’s end when sea turtles are expected to return to lay eggs.”
Galveston Island State Park occupies a sliver of land at the midway point of the barrier island about six miles southwest of the western tip of the popular sea wall. The bay side provides public access to about 600 acres of grasslands with coastal scrub and scattered oak mottes, as well as hundreds of additional acres of saltwater sloughs, wildlife-rich wetlands and tidal bayous.
Visitors can access the Galveston Island State Park’s bay side from FM 3005 (Seawall Boulevard. For more information, call the park at (409) 737-1222. - Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide