HOUSTON -- Standing on the blocks of busted rocks that line the Texas City dike, Lonnie Parker spent a summer day teaching his son the fine points of fishing.
“Well, it’s the old adage,” he explained. “You know, you teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime.”
Pelicans swooped down from the sky, snatching fish out of Galveston Bay, as 12-year-old Christian Parker fidgeted with his rod and reel. His father figured it was a good way to get his son away from computer screens and television sets for a day.
“Coming out to nature, to enjoy nature, is a very important thing,” Parker said.
Good thing they visited the dike on Monday. If they return over the holiday weekend, it’ll cost dad some money.
Texas City plans to charge out-of-town visitors to its popular dike a $10 admission fee over the Fourth of July weekend. That’s double the usual $5 weekend fee, an increase that’s getting mixed reaction from visitors to the dike. Even many people who live in Texas City – whose vehicles sport windshield stickers granting them free admission – don’t care much for the idea.
“I don’t think it’s fair, because there’s a lot of people that cannot afford that plus their bait…,” said Cheri Henderson, a Texas City resident. “It’s ridiculous.”
But Texas City officials have said they need the money both to maintain the dike and clean up the mess left behind by holiday visitors. And they’re getting support, not only from people who live and work near the dike, but also visitors subject to the higher fees.
“What keeps people coming back is the fact that they’ve kept it cleaned up,” said Jason Cogburn, who owns a bait camp near the dike. “They’ve got some really nice facilities out there. And the more money they make -- the more money what they’ve shown me the last few years since they’ve been charging it -- they’ve put back into it, which makes it a better value.”
Texas City officials began charging the original $5 fee in 2010, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between March and October. The Galveston Daily News obtained figures from city officials indicating they’ve collected almost $1.5-million from the fee.
The city government mows the grass, picks up the trash, maintains picnic areas and otherwise cares for the roughly five mile dike stretching into the bay. Fishermen cast lines into the water, families play on the beaches and birdwatchers catch close up views of brown pelicans perched on piers overlooking the shore.
Parker, who lives in League City, didn’t seem to mind the prospect of paying a premium for holiday access to the dike.
“There’s a lot of upkeep that’s needed to maintain the dike, so I think the increase in the fee is fine,” he said.