State Seeking to Close Rollover Pass After Almost 60 Years, to Residents' Regret

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Back in the rum-smuggling days, runners used to head for the narrowest, shallowest spit of land blocking the Gulf of Mexico from entering Galveston Bay.

They'd roll their barrels over the land, which became known as Rollover Pass. In 1955 the state dredged the site in order to improve fishing and salinity conditions in the area, creating one of the island's favorite fishing spots.

And now, saying Hurricane Ike did so much damage it's pointless to rebuild, the state is seeking to close Rollover down.

They have a $6 million plan to build new fishing spots and recreational facilities, and they're ready to use eminent domain to condemn the land and take it.

Everything will likely end up in court at some point, but for now the weapons are a petition by those opposed to closing Rollover, and studies and appeals to the public by government officials.

The Gulf Coast Rod, Reel, and Gun Club and the Gilchrist Community Association own the land, and they say the state is more interested in well-to-do Galveston weekenders than it is in the people who've fished the Pass for decades.

GCA president Ted Vega made it clear to the Crystal Beach Local News Web site:

The supporters of keeping Rollover Pass open for all question the motivation of those seeking to close the Pass.

"Is this an effort to support the rich beach front owners over the current users of the Pass?," Vega asks. "We believe that this condemnation effort - if undertaken - would violate the Texas and United States Constitutions. We believe that this is being done for the good of private property owners at the expense of the public, exactly the opposite of the basis for the use of the power of condemnation. We have had enough."

Supporters of the state's proposed action say the Pass dumps almost 300,000 cubic yards of sand into the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway each year and causes other erosion-related problems.

Exhaustive studies have concluded that Rollover Pass significantly contributes to erosion on Bolivar beaches, threatens the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, causes high salinity levels in the Galveston Bay system and costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in maintenance costs each year.

"Rollover Pass will soon close and it's important now that folks tell us what they think about our plan for what could follow," Patterson said. "Replacing Rollover Pass with a 1,000-foot pier could not only be great for fishermen, but for surfers and area business too -- just without all the erosion and annual costs to taxpayers."

The two sides don't agree on much, but the state does have the eminent-domain hammer, and that's a big hammer.

Patterson has asked Galveston County officials to start the ball rolling on condemnation, but we're sure there are still some courthouse visits to be made before anything is settled.

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