Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ghost Of City Councils Past

The proposal by City Councilman Michael McCutchon to ban vehicular traffic from the 4,200 foot stretch of beach in front of the sea wall on Padre Island is reminiscent of the original proposal introduced in 2005 by then Councilman Mark Scott.
If Scott had been satisfied with the original proposal it likely would have passed the City Council then.
But, as locals know, Scott got greedy and tacked on an additional 3,600 feet and most of the local population was outraged. The measure was forced to a vote by a referendum and the proposal went down in flames.
In addition a requirement was voted in place which would require another referendum before any section of the beach within the city limits could be closed to vehicular access.
Now the proposal from Councilman McCutchon is likely to be met with a big dose of healthy skepticism. The best outcome would be for this measure to die in the City Council. There is no need for a repeat of the heated controversy engendered by the first attempt to, in effect, close large sections of the beach to public access.
By the way Councilman McCutchon and Mayor Henry Garrett have pointed out that most of those who use this beach park in the parking lot above the seawall. That may be true but if that was the only public access available it would be in violation of the requirement for access for those who are disabled.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Councilman McCuthchon's Reply


I was hoping that this would not generate a huge amount of controversy. As you say, few people use that beach. Most congregate near the jetties or the piers, or else they go find an uninhabited stretch of beach. Those that do go to the seawall use the parking lot.

Regarding erosion, I have studied oceanography and ecology at the UT Marine Science Institute. I have studied these beaches by observation all my life. I understand and agree with your concerns. The seawall causes the erosion. Front stacking of seaweed against the dunes narrows beaches. I am addressing that. I’m pretty upset that we don’t have our new GLO permits for managing seaweed in place this season yet, but we will soon.

As for the “why pick a fight” question...consider the smart growth argument. Condos and private homes are going to be built. Right now, dunes are getting bulldozed for them just north of Zahn Road. Why not centralize them where the dunes have already been bulldozed, and where the habitat has already been destroyed? If no one really uses that stretch of beach, why fight the development there, only to have them bulldoze other areas? I think development should be attracted to the seawall area, unless we’re going to tear the seawall and the hotels down. Let’s leave that one to Mother Nature (or King Neptune).

It’s only a fight if you oppose it. I thought maybe enough people would see the logic in this. I know not everyone will agree.

Finally, please remember how this thing will happen. First, the ordinance will come to the council, who will either put it on the November ballot, or, if 5 of us don’t support it, it will die. If it doesn’t die, the public makes the decision. The council doesn’t. Isn’t that what was asked for in the first petition—that the public would make the decision?

I hope this helps.


I appreciate your reply and I am glad to get your perspective on this.
I know you are right that development will go on, I just fear our beach areas turning into another South Padre. Some think that's desirable but for me that would destroy the character and appeal of our still unique area.
As for the stretch in front of the sea wall my biggest fear would be that other developments would take that as a cue to seek the closing of beaches in front of their properties to vehicular access.
I think it would be desirable to slow down development for a while to take time to develop a comprehensive development plan which could consider where and what type of development should take place. A plan which takes into account building density, height of buildings, water availability, infrastructure maintenance, environmental and wild life habitat considerations and other things that might be pertinent.
Obviously smart growth is desirable, it just might not be so easy to agree as to what constitutes 'smart growth!'
I too have been going to these beaches for a long time, since 1965, and the changes in that time have been dismaying because of what has appeared to me to be a free for all of development, including the giant shark!
I was aware that development was inevitable, I just hoped it would be in an attractive and well planned manner. Those hopes were soon dashed to say the least!
Thanks for your considering my thoughts and your courteous reply.
I know we both want what's best for our community, we just might not agree on some things, but everyone is certainly not going to agree on everything!

A Letter To City Councilman Mike McCutchon

This is a picture from today, 4-14-08, showing the beach after the scraping. Is that really any better looking than before the scraping?

Dear Councilman McCutchon,
I read in the North Padre Moon today that you are planning to place an item on the city agenda to call for another referendum to be held concerning the closing of the beach in front of the seawall on Padre Island.
I am absolutely opposed to this idea. The reason the beach has eroded there is precisely because of the sea wall and the buildings which are built too close to the beach.
The best solution in my opinion would be the destruction of the sea wall and those buildings. I know that is unlikely but as long as these structures are where they are the beach in that area will continue to erode with more rapidity than elsewhere along the beach.
If you doubt this there are many studies from over the years which demonstrate how and why this occurs.
There are also studies, one done by the GLO about 15 years ago, which demonstrates how building on the beach side of the dune line interferes with the natural sand flow cycles from currents, waves and wind which build the dunes and the beaches.
It would be very wrong to award the Holiday Inn and the other places there what would in effect be a private beach, especially when it is the location of these buildings causing the problem.
Such a traffic ban will be in opposition to the spirit and the letter of the beach access law.
It might have been possible to close that section of beach without much public outcry before the beach closure flap of 2005 but now I, and I feel much of the public, doesn’t have much trust in the city government to do the right thing by it’s citizens. The current City Council is a step in the right direction but I feel y’all have a long way to go to revive public confidence in local government. Reviving the beach fight, at this time particularly, would be a great mistake and would once again fan the flames of public distrust and would not accomplish anything of any public benefit.
I went to the beach today and a lot of folks were out there all up and down the beach. Few were in the area in front of the sea wall and frankly, I don’t think there is a big problem there.
Why pick a fight for no good reason? I voted for you because you opposed the beach traffic closure. If you propose such a thing as this I will definitely find some one else to support.
Dicky Neely

PS: Another subject, forgive me! The method the city uses to scrape up the Sargassum sea weed is also a disaster for the beach. You are scraping up far too much sand for a cosmetic reason.
The Sargassum is another natural building block of the beach and not only does the scraping remove a lot of sand but it hinders the beach building process. Far better to just leave it alone. It will be gone by summer.
Also the dumping of the scrapings in front of the dunes is not a good idea either. Instead of building the dunes this creates a wall which actually hinders dune development. Take a drive down Padre Island sometime past the line into Kleberg county and take a look at the beach and sand dunes in their natural state. It is an eye opener and I firmly believe as much of the beach area on both Padre Island and Mustang Island should left alone as possible. Natural beaches are a draw and an asset, much more so than over developed and damaged beaches!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Surfing In California, A Few Old Pics...