Our right to the Texas coast

Chloe Williams, Web and Social editor

In 2009, the 1959 Texas Open Beaches Act (TXOBA) was codified into the Texas Constitution with support from 77% of voters. This act ensures public access to the 367 miles of coastline bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, despite citizen support for over 60 years, the right to our beaches could be threatened by SB 434 and HB 3114

According to the Texas Legislature website, these bills relate to the “burden of proof in a suit or administrative proceeding to establish that an area is subject to the public beach easement.” While bill sponsor, Senator Mayes Middleton of Galveston (R), states, “Senate Bill 434 does not in any way take away our open beaches or limit them,” many argue that at its core, this bill will affect our rights as Texans to enjoy the coast. 

The Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit grassroots organization, is working with former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson (R) to put an end to the bills. In a guest commentary for the Galveston Daily News, Patterson, along with other former Texas Land Commissioners David Dewhurst and Garry Mauro, openly opposed these bills and coined them as the “End of Texas’ open beaches.” The three go on to state that with these bills, property owners could deny access to public beach easement between the vegetation line and the mean high tide mark. In other words, beachgoers would only have access to the “wet” area in between that is washed away during high tide. 

With TXOBA in effect for over 60 years, beachgoers and property owners alike seem to be opposing the bills. Ronald Smeberg, a commenter on LegiScan’s page for SB 434, states, “What makes Texas beaches unique is the free access to its beaches. I have two properties in Port Aransas, one in North Padre and am planning to do more development in North Padre on two more acres on North Padre that I currently own. In my time preparing to develop on the coast I have come across people who have taken the elitist position that they should own the beach and want to exclude others. We need to protect the right to free access to the beach for all people, rich and poor.” 

Other commenters expressed concerns about the bill’s effect on tourism. With Corpus Christi alone welcoming over 10.61 million visitors annually to experience the Texas coast, this concern seems more than necessary. 

As a Texan that grew up a short drive from the coastline, the freedom to access our diverse beaches should be protected and cherished. Contact your local State Senators and Representatives at https://capitol.texas.gov/ to oppose SB 434 and HB 3114. Now and always, we must fight for our right to enjoy the Texas coast.