GALVESTON, Texas — Galveston Island State Park, whose facilities were devastated by Hurricane Ike last September, has made a remarkable comeback and will once again offer beachside camping in time for the busy Fourth of July weekend. Beginning July 2, visitors will be able to choose from 36 beachside campsites situated on three loops.
Two camping loops will accommodate tents or recreational vehicles and have restrooms and showers. Each $15 campsite will have water, a shade shelter, fire ring and picnic table. The third camping loop is wired for 50 amp electric service and will be for RVs only. Those sites will cost $25 per night. All beachside camping sites will provide foot traffic access to the Gulf of Mexico.
The popular state park, which was closed for six months and has been reopening in stages since last spring, only recently returned to a seven-day schedule and began allowing daytime access to a little more than a mile of beachfront. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has spent approximately $225,000 to rebuild the campsites and operate the park this fiscal year that ends Aug. 31.
Galveston Island State Park hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The park office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Up until June 18, only the bay side of the 2,000-acre park had been open for day use since last March. It had been experiencing growing visitation. The bay side camping area features 10 water-only campsites for $15 per night and 20 water-and-electric sites for $20. A $5 per-person entry fee for individuals 13 and older has been reinstated. Children 12 and younger receive free park entry.
“During Memorial Day weekend, we had over 500 visitors to the bay side part of the park fishing, kayaking, bird watching and hiking,” said Justin Rhodes, regional director of state parks in southeast Texas. “The debris has been cleaned up and the park is coming back together. It’s beautiful right now.”
Rhodes said having the park open seven days a week and offering limited camping and day use facilities on the beach side are interim steps until a master plan is developed, an environmental assessment can be done and permanent facilities rebuilt. To facilitate the reopening of the beach side, electrical power and water were restored, and a structure was moved in to serve as temporary headquarters. The original headquarters building and all other beachside facilities were destroyed by Hurricane Ike.
During its recent session, the Texas Legislature allocated a portion of the state’s Hurricane Ike recovery funds to the TPWD to hire an architectural design firm to develop a master plan to rebuild the state park.
Over the ensuing months, hundreds of volunteers pitched in to clean up storm damage and remove considerable debris on the bay side and to convert the Nature Center into a Welcome Center. The Galveston Island State Park Friends Group played a major role in operating the park and staffing the Welcome Center.
The Texas Department of Transportation, operating under a directive from Governor Rick Perry to assist hurricane-impacted governmental entities, led 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 about $2.3 million it didn’t have budgeted, according to TPWD regional project manager Tony Bettis. So far, he said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has begun to reimburse TxDOT for the Galveston Island cleanup.
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.