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BOLIVAR PENINSULA-- Mark Sona was headed out through the surf with his fishing pole, leaving his white truck parked on the beach nearby.

The 44-year-old printer from Waco comes to Bolivar three or four times a year to try his luck at luring fish.

But next year, parking his truck on the beach could cost him.

A part of the proposed Galveston County Dune Protection and Beach Access Plan requires parking permits for most of the beach.

The revenue from the annual $10 sticker would pay for beach maintenance, rest room facilities, replacing or repairing sand dunes and signs, beach cleanup and other beach projects on the peninsula. Permits will be discounted in January and February. How much the fee is expected to generate in revenues was not available Friday.

General Land Office officials will have to sign off on the plan before it can go into effect.

Only those who want to park or camp on the beach would be required to have the permit. Cruising the beach, as long as the vehicle is moving, doesn't require one, said Eddie Oehlers, Gilchrist Community Association president.

Oehlers said by phone that he has been working on this plan for about five years.

"It helps clean up the beach," he said.

Anne Willis, Bolivar Chamber of Commerce president, said the new permits will help generate more money for beach maintenance, which has been underfunded.

"There are so many people who come to our beaches," Willis said by phone.

The county spends about $1 million annually for beach maintenance on both Bolivar Peninsula and a beach in an unincorporated area on West Galveston Island. Costs include sheriff's department patrols, contracts to empty trash bins and other projects, said John Simsen, grants coordinator for the county.

Only about $100,000 is refunded by the state, Simsen said by phone.

But while this new beach plan has its good points to some, others don't care for it at all.

Sona opposes the permits, saying that he pays enough in fishing and other permits and doesn't want to worry about another fee.

"If I had to pay, I wouldn't come," said Shirley Connor, 37, of Humble, who comes to the beach nearly every weekend. "There is always somewhere else."

Steven Connor, 41, a scaffold builder from New Caney, fears that if people have to pay to come to beach, there will be more restrictions on what people can do on the beach.

"What's next? Frisbee?" Connor asked.

If the beach permits are required, then two areas of beach will be designated as free. One is from Meacom's Pier northeast to the county line. The other stretches from northeast of Rettilion Road about a third of a mile until the washed-out section of the beach, and south of Rettilion Road to the bird sanctuary, according to the plan.

The plan also designates beach access roads and the dune protection area and limits the speed limit on the beach to 15 miles per hour. It also prohibits littering.

There will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Justice of the Peace courtroom in the Crystal Beach annex building off Texas 87 in Crystal Beach.

Go to www.co.galveston.tx.

us for the complete plan.

Reach this reporter at:

(409) 833-3311, ext. 416

[email protected]
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