Piece of Mind: The Beach Should Matter to All Texans

Apr 19, 2019

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas – As luck would have it, my wife and I pulled our fifth wheel recreational vehicle into this state park on the Gulf Coast at a most opportune moment.

We arrived the day before dozens of volunteers trooped to this Jefferson County resort area to clean up some beach front.

It’s part of a statewide Coastal Cleanup Day inaugurated in 1986 by the Texas General Land Office. The 2019 version occurred on Saturday. From the mouth of the Rio Grande River to the mouth of the Sabine River, groups gathered at coastal locations to pick up trash that has washed ashore or has been tossed aside by careless/thoughtless tourists.

The effort began on the watch of Garry Mauro, a former Texas land commissioner who left office in 1999 after getting slaughtered at the ballot box by then-Gov. George W. Bush, who cruised to re-election against Mauro, his Democratic challenger, in 1998.

Mauro, though, had a great idea in launching the Texas Coastal Cleanup. It became part of the Texas A&M grad’s push to protect the Texas coast. He wanted the state to devote more money, effort and emotional capital in preserving the coastline from inevitable erosion.

The beach cleanup has generally been a rousing success, whether it’s at the top of the Gulf Coast, along the Intracoastal Waterway, the Coastal Bend or near the Valley. However, it’s a project with no end. Consider it the way we think of the “war on international terrorism.” Just as we cannot eliminate every known terrorist from the face of the planet, we cannot possibly expect there to be a complete cessation of thoughtless littering.

Mauro had this notion that the coast presents something of value to the entire state. It’s a place of immense commercial commerce. There is, of course, the lure of tourism and the money that “snowbirds” and others from around the nation and the world bring to the coastal region. Those individuals flood the state with money and they are far less likely to visit a coastline that is rife with rubbish than they are to visit a place that presents a clean look.

To their great credit, all the successive land commissioners have carried on the Coastal Cleanup effort long after Garry Mauro’s time at the General Land Office came to an end.

I believe it’s likely to stay a part of the state’s effort to present its best face for way past the foreseeable future.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont .Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.