Galveston Island State Park invites the public to a grand reopening event with two days of festivities March 31 and April 1 as part of the ongoing, yearlong Texas State Parks Centennial.
The beach side of the park opened last summer following completion of a three-year major redevelopment project, sparked by damages from historic Hurricane Ike.
The first day of the festivities will feature speeches from local, statewide and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) dignitaries, as well as interpretive activities, refreshments and self-guided tours. Day Two is an extravaganza of fun, with activities every hour including prairie hikes, fishing and kayaking at Horseshoe Pond, beach walks and bay exploration at Lake Como.
“We’re excited to invite everyone to come celebrate with us and see the results,” said Park Superintendent Steven Kimbley. “It’s a small way to thank everyone for supporting us through hurricane and recovery. Galveston Island State Park is now fully open and our staff is excited to welcome all Texans to come experience the Third Coast.”
Improvements to the park include a new headquarters building, 95 new campsites, two new restrooms (and renovations to an existing restroom), new roads, two new changing areas and rinse-off showers, 20 new shade shelters in the day-use area and a seasonal equestrian day-use area.
Visitors to the park will find more than five miles of hiking trails, a newly remodeled nature center on the bay side, two observation towers, two boardwalks, three kayak launch locations on the bay side with more than 11 miles of paddling trails, a new vendor area and three new group-use pavilions on the beach side.
Of course, reconstruction plans included accommodations for the threat of future hurricanes.
“The new headquarters, campsites and day-use area are more elevated now,” Kimbley said. “Structures are built to flex with the landscape and be more resistant to future extreme weather.”
The Galveston Island State Park Beach Redevelopment project was brought to fruition with $10.6 million in Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Phase III Early Restoration funds from the Texas Trustees (TPWD, Texas General Land Office and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). These funds leveraged Sporting Good Sales Tax dollars to provide the improvements Texans will enjoy for generations.
Galveston Island State Park has 2,000 acres of park land in two sections, bayside and beachside. The park first opened in 1975, but early humans used the bountiful area for gathering resources such as oysters. The property was later used as a cattle ranch until the state acquired it in 1969.
Today, the park’s interpretive programming reaches thousands of children annually through educational field trips to the park and, conversely, park rangers and volunteers in classrooms. The recently renovated Nature Center provides new opportunities for education and activities including starting new fishing programs, connecting art to the park with plein air watercolor sessions, expanding guided hikes and offering new skills-based learning, such as kayaking. Concessionaires offer opportunities for park visitors to rent camping gear, kayaks, beach umbrellas and chairs. Popular activities include fishing, crabbing, paddling, wildlife watching and more.
Galveston Island State Park provides refuge and supports ongoing research for listed species such as the eastern black rail and piping plover. Last year, a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (endangered) nest with 107 eggs was discovered in the park’s beachside dunes, the first in a decade. With the help of passionate volunteers, the park works to restore and protect coastal prairie habitat and educate the next generation about its importance.
Hurricane Ike crippled the upper Texas coast in 2008, devastating Galveston Island and Sea Rim state parks. The Friends of Galveston Island State Park and countless other volunteers came from across the state and the nation to help the park clean up and reopen with temporary facilities only six months later.
“If it wasn’t for our selfless Texans, and the countless volunteers over the years, we couldn’t have done it,” Kimbley said. “We all seek to connect. It’s important to all of us. We have seen that connection here through friends, families and the community. Thank you all for gifting us with a park that we can share with pride.”
For updated information, see the park’s Facebook page.
Texas State Park reservations may now be made online anytime on the TPWD website or by calling the Texas State Park Reservation Center at (512) 389-8900 on weekdays during normal business hours. Overnight reservations can be made up to five months in advance, and day passes can be reserved up to 30 days in advance. If your plans change, please modify or cancel your reservation as soon as possible to allow someone else to enjoy the park as we do expect it to reach capacity limits.
For more information about ongoing restoration efforts in Texas, visit https://www.gulfspillrestoration.noaa.gov/restoration-areas/texas.