73ºF

Stewart Beach to get $14M in improvements over the next 15 years

GALVESTON ISLAND, Texas – The Galveston Park Board has released details of a master plan to make $14 million in improvements to a popular beach park on the island's east end.

The short-term and long-term changes to Stewart Beach would happen over the course of 15 years. They include bike racks, landscaping, adding a space for retail and restaurants, and a boardwalk. The plan also recommends constructing roundabouts on Seawall Boulevard at Ferry Street and Broadway Street to ease traffic congestion.

"Stewart Beach is a family-friendly destination seeing more than half a million visitors each year," said Park Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun in a press release. "The beaches are the biggest draw for visitors to the island and it's our aim to continually enhance and improve them."

Local business owners are hoping an improved beach experience will enhance their bottom line.

"Anything we can do to get more foot traffic down here has got to be good for every business around here, especially a small little shop like mine," said Hemmingway's Pub Owner James Cunningham.  "What they are talking about being built across the street - shops, pavilions - it'll give people something more to do than just sit (on the beach) all afternoon."

Plans to improve Stewart Beach have come and gone since Hurricane Ike devastated the area in 2008.

"Just take a look at what Tilman Fertitta did with the Pleasure Pier," Cunningham said.  "That whole section just a few blocks down there was dead. Now, it's booming."

The Park Board of Trustees plans to vote on the master plan on Feb. 10. Staff will seek funding sources for the project after it's approved, and work could begin as soon as summer 2015.