Galveston: Conserving a Barrier Island

Galveston island’s ethos is one of conservation. Serving the mainland as a natural barrier, offering shelter for migrating birds, and enjoying a reputation as one of Texas’ leading tourist destinations, sustainability is key to the island’s survival.

By virtue of its geography and topography, the island performs several key functions simultaneously. Situated just miles from the Texas coast, the delicate sandbar and its wetlands serve as a natural stopping point for migrating birds, offering them a habitat in which to rest. The island also boasts a reputation as one of Texas’ leading tourist destinations, meaning it hosts an influx of visitors each year. Due to each of these factors, protection, conservation, and sustainability are key to both the island’s function and survival. A combined effort between the Galveston Park Board and other island organizations ensures that these tenets are upheld as much as possible.

Firstly, Galveston’s beaches are in regular need of maintenance due to loss of sand through erosion. Since 2009, 3.7 million cubic yards of sand material have been replenished by the Galveston Park Board and regional partners. Without such efforts, Galveston’s efficacy as a barrier island would be measurably compromised and the ecology of the beachfront threatened.

Another initiative enacted by the Galveston Park Board, the ‘Beach Toy Borrow Box’ program, encourages visitors and locals alike to help in these conservation efforts directly. Abandoned plastic toys are retrieved from Galveston’s beaches, cleaned, and then returned to specially constructed boxes along the seafront. Subsequent visitors can then borrow these toys during a trip to the beach and are expected to return them at the end of the day rather than littering them.

The Oregon-based, non-profit ‘Washed Ashore’ program goes further in raising awareness of the dangers of plastic entering the ocean, whereby volunteers create works of art out of plastic refuse collected from the water. For the first time ever, Galveston brought the artworks together in one place so islanders and visitors can view these recycled works of art for free. Galveston hopes to host this program in coming months to boost their community’s awareness of the importance of marine conservation.

Meanwhile, at the coastal heritage preserve to the west of the island, the Artist Boat organization offers their ‘Eco Art Adventure’ experiences, wherein the public can kayak out into Galveston’s estuary and learn the importance of the wetlands, while enjoying the opportunity to paint a water-color of the scenery they encounter.

Galveston Island recognizes the importance – and necessity – of their visitors sharing a desire to maintain, conserve, and protect the local habitat from all manner of pollutants, be it material or chemical. Such an ethos is vital to ensure that Galveston may welcome visitors for years to come.

Funded by Galveston Park Board.

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