CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas researchers, managers, nonprofits and local government officials gathered at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi for a unique forum sharing the latest shoreline science and fostering collaboration for the management of Texas’ beloved beaches.
The first-ever “Texas Beaches and Dunes: Science and Management Forum” was held Thursday, Sept. 24, and Friday, Sept. 25, at the HRI. The mission of the forum was to bring together a diverse group of individuals who are working to improve and maintain the health of Gulf beaches and dunes to discuss ongoing research and monitoring, beach management practices, policy and economics. The forum also aims to develop a network of collaborators who can work together for the betterment of Texas’ coast.
“The conference zeroed in on the significant management issues and research needs for Texas’ Gulf beaches and dunes,” said Dr. Jim Gibeaut, HRI Endowed Chair for Geospatial Sciences and Forum Organizer. “We had good discussions amongst researchers, resource managers, and experts on the economic impact and policy of beaches and dunes, as well as public outreach. We will be taking steps to keep the interaction going.”
Texas has a unique relationship with its beaches and dunes, which provide residents with storm protection and ample recreational opportunities. As the only state with its one-of-a-kind open beach law, free and unrestricted access to beaches is considered a constitutional right. This creates unique management challenges for the state’s 350-plus miles of coastline.
Issues addressed at the conference included ways sea level rise could affect future beach management, the effects of Hurricane Ike and other big storms on the environment, regulatory challenges facing beach managers, data gaps that need to be addressed and obstacles to collaboration and potential solutions.
Diana Del Angel, an organizer of the Texas Beaches and Dunes Conference and Coastal Geoscientist at the HRI, said that the forum was designed to be a mix of both traditional scientific presentations showcasing the latest research in dunes and beaches and open discussion panels discussing dialogue between academics and managers.
Participants came from across the coast including Corpus Christi, South Padre Island and Port Aransas. They also came from a variety of backgrounds including academic research, state agencies like the General Land Office, local government, and nonprofits like Burners Without Borders and the Surfrider Foundation.
“We designed this forum to be interactive,” Del Angel said. “We hoped that if we mixed everyone up, we’d be able to get into issues that don’t always come up at purely academic conferences. If we get together and hear each other’s challenges and problems, it will help us to better integrate research and science into management strategies for our Texas beaches and dunes.”