(Mar. 02, 2010 - Gilchrist, Bolivar Peninsula, TX.)... Since 2008, when satanic winds and the 27 foot tsunami storm surge of Ike destroyed the fishing community of Gilchrest TX, quite a strain was put on the survivor’s ability to rebuild their community. But now, an even more sinister ill wind is threatening the very life of this quiet beachside community.
"Close the Pass" became the battle cry of Texas legislator’s, "Save the Pass" responded desperate Gilchrist residents with their own "Battle Cry"!
In 2008, after Hurricane Ike rolled over Rollover Pass, taking with it at least 98% of the homes and businesses that was Gilchrist, the surviving residents have been struggling to rebuild and revive this "very popular" beachside fishing and tourism Mecca.
Rollover Pass, a sliver of waterway that merges Galveston’s East Bay with the Gulf of Mexico, has been a strong fishing attraction and major tourism Mecca since 1954, pumping countless millions into the economy of the Bolivar Peninsula. Bolivar, an isthmus of land connecting the Texas mainland communities of Winnie and Galveston, is a very important byway for the commerce that travels to and from these communities. And Rollover Pass, a 200 yard long by 50 yard wide tidal waterway, is the life’s blood of Gilchrist that draws the interest of the tourists.
Recently, the Texas State legislative body ruled that Rollover Pass must be closed. Their reasoning is that the Pass acts as a funnel for sand that’s clogging the Inland Waterway and erodes the beaches along the Peninsula’s Gulf-side coastline.
The GCA (Gilchrist Community Association) is a concerned group of citizens for the rebuilding of Gilchrist and saving Rollover Pass. But that rebuilding process will come from the Pass itself through revenues spent from visiting anglers and tourists alike. It’s estimated that over one million tourists, anglers, and bird watchers visit Rollover annually and the seaside community of Gilchrist relies on those annual income dollars to survive.
A meeting held last February 6th in High Island, TX, brought these two groups together to argue their positions. But the state of Texas came with deaf ears and obstinate attitudes.
They, the Texas Land Office, figures it this way; The Bolivar coastline is being negatively affected by the Open Pass via erosions of the beaches as well as rising the salinity levels in Galveston’s East Bay. The pass, they argue, costs the state one million dollars a year to dredge the Inland Waterway that supports the navigational aspects for the marine commerce concerns via barge and boat traffic. So the state legislation approved to spend 5.85 million dollars, with an additional request for 4.4 million to fill in the pass, closing the pass off for good. This will solve the problem, they feel, and save the state the million dollars a year maintenance for keeping the pass open. They feel that by closing the pass and building a fishing pier with boat ramps on the site will help keep the tourism option open for the Gilchrist business and homeowners concerns.
Gilchrist, a small seaside community at Rollover Pass, was established in 1950 when their first post office was opened and Sir named after Mr. Gibb Gilchrist, which still bares his name on a Galveston Ferry boat today. The pass was actually a natural cut between the Gulf and the bay when they dredged out the Intra-Coastal waterway in 1924. So Rollover Pass was already a natural observable fact and a community before the construction of the intra-coastal even began.
We, the GCA, don’t feel that by closing the pass and building a fishing pier will solve our loss of tourism problem, but instead will act as a deterrent to the visitations as fishing interests decline. The pass, they say, has been a Mecca for anglers, tourists, and bird watchers since 1954, where they can drive up to the pass and freely fish for flounder, speckled trout, and redfish, just to name a few of the many species that are available for them to catch. Birders also take advantage of the exotic migratory birdlife that arrives here each winter and the pass provides a seaway to the bay salt marshes where endangered sea turtles feed and sea-trout, redfish, and flounder spawn.
We, the GCA, feel that by spending the 9 plus million dollars they’re raising to close the pass is a huge mistake and a big waste of taxpayers tax dollars, where instead those dollars could be better spent rebuilding the pass and constructing a series of jetties and rock groins along the coast to alleviate the erosion problem. We feel that by doing this the State of Texas will preserve this natural tourism attraction that will regenerate into the millions needed to support not only Gilchrist, but the economy for the entire Bolivar Peninsula.
Instead, the GCA feels, the State would rather see us "rollover" like the armadillo, and play dead!
Mr. Nick Brown, a marine biologist and former resident of Gilchrist, who lost his home to Ike, was at the meeting and stated, "That the main reason for the Pass being reopened in 1950 was to INCREASE the salinity and fish flow to East Bay. And closing it would be disastrous for Gilchrist as well for the Bolivar Peninsula. If you close the pass, he stated, the water temperatures and salinity levels will change drastically resulting in massive fish kills and loss of important sea-grasses.
Whatever the outcome, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on notice to close the pass within 15 months, unless a solution is reached for keeping it open, or the next battle cry you may hear could rival that of "Remember the Alamo". But instead of dealing with Generalissimo Santa Anna, the charge will be that of the Texas Legislatures ..........WHERE IS THE CALVARY?!
For those who would like to join the battle contact or contact Dick Riley at 832-567-0124.