Padre Island National Seashore considers changes to beach driving, asks for public input

PINS is asking for public input by March 14; Meeting will be held Feb. 23 at Mission San Jose

CORPUS CHRISTI – The Padre Island National Seashore is asking for public input on a series of possible changes at the national park, including potentially limiting beach driving.

PINS, which is south of Corpus Christi, is considering developing a Beach Management Plan that would address beach driving, along with the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery program, sand management, storm recovery and debris removal.

The beach destination is the largest stretch of a barrier island in the U.S. and is popular for swimming, fishing, bird watching and camping. But even with all its visitors and historical significance, PINS has never had a Beach Management Plan since it was established in 1968.

Officials said with the plan, they would have guidance on how to better protect and monitor activities on the beach.

One of the topics up for discussion is beach driving, as too many cars may negatively impact the visitor experience, PINS officials said in a newsletter.

“As visitation increases, the number of vehicles can also be expected to increase. The National Park Service is obligated to assess visitor capacity to protect resources and visitor experience. Once capacity is determined, if visitation exceeds capacity, the Seashore may need to take action,” the newsletter states.

A potential solution includes creating a road for the first five miles (until mile marker five) to allow traffic to bypass visitors. Other options include adding vehicle-free pedestrian areas and requiring beach driving permits.

Currently, sea turtle patrol crews try to keep vehicle and pedestrian traffic away from the turtles that nest there. Those turtles are Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, green, hawksbill and leatherback.

Staff members patrol the beach to locate nesting turtles and collect eggs. The eggs are then taken to an incubation facility until they’re ready to hatch, and the hatchlings are then released on the beach.

PINS officials said they’re seeking input on how to minimize human interaction with the turtles and other wildlife.

“To understand how we might manage sea turtles in the future, the Seashore is considering pilot studies. A goal of the Kemp’s ridley bi-national action plan is for sea turtles to exist without human assistance,” the newsletter states.

Some ideas for solutions include holding fewer public hatching releases, limiting egg collections and adding aerial technology to monitor nests.

PINS also wants to develop plans for managing large quantities of sand that constantly shift due to the wind and water, coordinating operations after storms, and removing large amounts of debris.

PINS is asking for public input on these topics to be submitted by March 14.

People can submit their comments electronically by clicking here, or by attending one of three in-person meetings. One meeting will be held in San Antonio at Mission San Jose on Feb. 23. For more information, click here.

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About the Author

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

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