Friday, August 29, 2008

City Council To Consider New Plan For Sea Wall Traffic

City Council member Michael McCutchon recently said he wanted to launch a move to close traffic in front of the sea wall on Padre Island. After dodging some brick bats thrown his way by supporters of free, open, accessible beaches, McCutchon has back tracked a bit and decided he would support a plan which re-plenishes the continuously disappearing sand along he seawall and provides for a bollard system dividing the beach from traffic and pedestrians. This is similar to the system in Port Aransas and is also an idea first floated by the Surfriders and the Beach Access Coalition three years ago.
So far his new proposal has not been introduced before the City Council but it probably will be soon.
This is all a bit ironic since McCutchon was a leader in the grass roots movement which stopped the beach driving ban three years ago.
Below is an excerpt on the subject from today's Corpus Christi Caller/Times:

McCutchon: Plan would avoid potentially divisive vote.

Councilman Michael McCutchon is no longer pushing for a vehicle ban along a narrowing section of Padre Island beach, instead promoting a compromise plan that divides the seawall beach with wooden posts, providing for two-way traffic and jetty access.
"If we can hammer out a compromise plan, we can avoid a divisive vote,"
he said.
This plan allows for driving when the beach is at least 150 feet wide. The narrowing beach is sometimes less than 75 feet wide, but it was about 150 feet earlier this week, McCutchon said.
Under his plan, driving remains prohibited 25 feet from the seawall and 50 feet from the water. Traffic would be allowed on a 50-foot-wide section, with 25 additional feet reserved for parking. Wooden posts, or bollards, would run the length of the beach, marking where driving is
If the beach is less than 150 feet wide traffic would be prohibited.
Beach access has been a heated community issue, and many community members equate a restriction on beach driving to a restriction on beach access.
City voters in 2006 rejected a ban on vehicular traffic on a stretch of beach that would have included this seawall section. Voters also approved then that any future move to ban traffic on beaches must first be approved by a vote of the people.
McCutchon had hoped the council would put an ordinance to voters banning traffic in that section, which he thought was too narrow. But a commitment to increase the beach width through a sand re-nourishment project supported by the city and state led McCutchon to consider this plan instead of closing the beach to traffic.
Without a re-nourishment effort, he didn't see that beach being safe for drivers and beach goers. But with a wider beach, this plan provides for access and safety, he said.
A previous plan, which the city has been working to implement, would direct and discourage traffic in front of the seawall. That plan would install 15 wooden posts between Access Road 3A to Whitecap Boulevard, where one-way traffic southbound is allowed. At the south end, signs would say, "Do not enter, one way." At the entrance to the seawall at Access Road 3A, signs would remind visitors where they may drive, 25 feet from the seawall and 50 feet from the water, and include a warning of "Do not enter due to beach conditions," which would be displayed when the area is too narrow for traffic to cross safely.
McCutchon said that constituted de-facto closing as one-way traffic would not allow drivers to make it through that section of beach. His plan, allowing for two-way traffic, lets drivers turn around if the beach is too narrow.
The City Council will take public comments and discuss the idea at its meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Henry Garrett said he wants to review the plan more thoroughly.
"If we can all come to an agreement and we can do what we have to do to make it safe and avoid a vote I think this is a good direction to go in," he said.
Beach Access Coalition member Hal Suter said the plan appears to have preliminary support from his group, but will be considered at a meeting Monday.
The re-nourishment commitment is a plus, he said, as is access to the jetties remaining open.
"It could be good beach management," he said.