Natural barrier island beaches and dunes undergo a cycle of erosion during major storms and rebuilding in the calm between storms. We have broken that cycle in Port Aransas by not allowing the critical coppice dunes to rebuild seaward and extend the foredunes since Hurricane Allen struck 25 years ago. The problem is being made worse now that upper beach sand, deposited both naturally and by city equipment is being transported to the water for it to wash away and be lost to our natural dune seawall forever. This is extremely short sighted when most other Texas coastal communities are spending millions to place sand on their upper beaches, the very place where we are removing it. The first four miles of Port Aransas south of the jetties the beach is stable or growing while most of the rest of the coast is eroding, including the rest of Mustang Island. But, the natural dune seawall is our only protection from total destruction in a major hurricane. The last major storm was Celia in 1970 and Carla before that in 1961. As Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita have shown, coastal towns with no man-made seawall or natural dune seawall get totally destroyed in such storms.
Beach management that reduces the ability of our natural dune seawall to build out and up to the maximum possible is a great mistake when we realize that one day we will have our Katrina, or Rita, or Celia, or Carla, or 1919 storm. It is coming, the only question is when. Let’s allow natural beach processes to build our critical coppice dunes so that they join onto the foredune ridge and extend it and improve our natural dune seawall protection.
I spearheaded the effort to get highly destructive dune buggies and 4 wheel drive vehicles out of the dunes of Mustang and Padre island in the late 60s with an educational campaign. The next two photos show the severe damage done to the dunes by these vehicles. The picture on the left was taken on north Padre island and the one on the right on U.T. property at the gun mounts. The curving road is Beach St.
I organized graduate students and we gave slide shows, had kids do poster contests and talked on TV. At our request, the Marine Science Institute placed huge signs along the beach access road asking people “Don’t Drive in the Dunes, Protect the Natural Dune Seawall.” It worked and the roads and the gulleys through the dunes healed with time. That lead to Nueces County writing the first dune protection laws which was followed by the state dune protection laws now administered by the GLO. Now the damage is being done by city government, apparently with