I ask the question “who owns the beach,” because nobody really knows. Below the mean high water mark, the State of Texas owns the land outright, although it can lease parts to other people, such as through the GLO for oil & gas or even wind turbine projects. The beach is a much more complicated thing.
Research reveals that the Town of SPI might in fact own some land on the beach through a deed by the original developer, John L. Tompkins (more information to follow in a few days). It probably is just a few acres. Otherwise, the Town doesn’t own a darn speck of land on the beach.
The reason why SPI has cop cars and code enforcement out on those beaches is because Texas Legislature allowed that. That legislation allowed coastal towns to control vehicle traffic, encourage beach renourishment, and require access; however it did not grant any easement, conveyance, right of way, or other ownership to the Town in the least.
So the important concept is that Texas allowed SPI to manage the beach but not really possess all of it. Indeed, many land parcels go down all the way from Gulf Boulevard all the way down to the high water mark. The eastern section would be a no-man’s land in between the historical building line and the vegetation line and then the beach itself. It could be an easement in the sense that the strip of beach along the Gulf is considered a highway – just look on County land in Boca Chica and to the north of town, where yes you can get a speeding ticket on their “highway.”
Here in Texas we are blessed to have an open beaches act, since in many other states the owners own all the way to the high water mark. The subtle undercurrent is that we don’t know who really owns the land when public works projects are considered for the beach, vegetation, and dunes. For example, how can we permit beach umbrellas and chairs when we really don’t own the beach?