Galveston Island State Park has two thousand acres of surf, beach, dunes, coastal prairie, fresh-water ponds, wetlands, bayous and bay shoreline. It is a richly diverse preserve with hundreds of species of wildlife — you may see roseate spoonbills resting in an oak mott, tree frogs croaking out their mating calls, skimmers nesting in terraced wetlands, egrets fishing the ponds, coyotes prowling the nighttime grassland, sandpipers skittering in the surf and pelicans surveying from high above.

For recreation, you can swim at the beach, hike or bike the miles of trails, kayak the wetlands and fish the bay or surf. The Park is also a science laboratory for naturalists and students of marsh ecology, bird migration, shoreline stability and wildlife habitat.

Even though a short visit can be refreshing, an overnight stay at campgrounds that front the beach or bay offers the promise of a star-filled night with the soothing sound of water meeting the shore.

Friends of Galveston Island State Park (FoGISP) is a non-profit corporation founded by a group of conservationists, naturalists and educators in February, 2001 in order to assist and promote the Park.

Read the blog entries below to keep up with our activities.

Sunday morning bird walks resume at the Park

Doctor Richard Peake has resumed Sunday morning walks at the Park. Beginning at 8:00 am at the Nature Learning Center, the walks last until around 11:30 for those who can spare that much time. If you have less free time, you can drop out during convenient breaks in the morning’s schedule as walkers move between locations. Doctor Peake says recent walks have been very rewarding, though he would like more leaders to volunteer their time and knowledge to help with this activity.

Doctor Peake has been an active field ornithologist for over fifty years, starting out in Chesapeake, Virginia when his fifth-grade teacher started a junior Audubon Club in her class. When we was 13, Peake persuaded his parents to buy him a pair of WWII army-surplus 6×30 binoculars. Imagine his excitement when one of the first birds he found in his neighborhood was a Western Kingbird!

Though not primarily a “lister,” Doctor Peake has an ABA list of well over 700 and a world list of 4,500 species. He is a life member of the AOU, the Association of Field Ornithologists, the Carolina Bird Club, the Houston Audubon Society, KOS, TOS (both Tennessee and Texas), VSO, and the Wilson Ornithological Society. Now Professor Emeritus of English, Dick gives illustrated bird programs and does occasional volunteer and professional birding tours in Texas and Virginia.

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Accomplishments celebrated at Annual Meeting

On August 16, we conducted our Annual Meeting at the Galveston Country Club.

We celebrated a broad range of accomplishments for the year 2013/2014, including the following:

  • Doubled our membership
  • Launched a Facebook page; re-vamped the website; and reintroduced our newsletter
  • Hosted our fifth annual Fun Run in January, with more that 160 participants and volunteers
  • Hosted our first annual Beach and Bay Day, a resounding success that attracted more than 500 visitors to the Park, along with 80 volunteers
  • Hosted our thirteenth annual Camp Wild, with 59 campers and a lot of exciting, new activities
  • Created a new look-and-feel for the Nature Learning Center
  • Continued the popular beach and bay explorations, kayak adventures and field trips
  • Continued to grow plants to help restore the Park’s ecosystems
  • Donated money to the Park for a range of projects

We thanked a number of volunteers for their exemplary service — most notably Nathan Veatch — and welcomed three new board members: Rhonda Marshall, Jo Monday and Charli Rohack.

Need a relaxing Galveston stay-cation?

Are you looking for that perfect location to host a gathering of friends? Perhaps you are searching for that private little slice of paradise where you or your family can sneak away for a relaxing “stay-cation” right here in Galveston. Well, look no further than our own Galveston Island Sate Park. Starting in August, the Park will offer for rent the Maco Stewart House and the nearby Ranch House. These two homes, situated on the shore of beautiful Lake Como, have been restored to their former glory after suffering significant damage as a result of hurricane Ike. They are now available to the public to rent by the day, the weekend or the week.

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The Maco Stewart House and the Ranch House are located on what were once the palatial grounds surrounding the Stewart Mansion. George Sealy originally built the Spanish-style house, now known as the Stewart Mansion, located on the bay at Stewart Road and 13 Mile road. After Maco Stewart acquired the land in a property exchange in 1933, the mansion was enlarged and extensively renovated, resulting in the building that we see today. The mansion remained in the Stewart family until 1944, when it was donated to the medical branch of the University of Texas to be used as a children’s convalescence home. It eventually became too expensive to operate and was abandoned.

In Maco Stewart’s will, he stipulated that, after the death of his wife and sons, the associated ranch, which is now Galveston Island State Park, be left to the state of Texas to be used and maintained as a fish, game and oyster preserve. His wish was that this ranch would be a source of enjoyment to the public for generations to come. In 1975, Galveston Island State Park was opened to the public, fulfilling Maco Stewart’s dream.

If you would like to come out to the Park and enjoy this private getaway and make your own unforgettable memories, just contact the Park office to inquire about cost and reservations. If you are a member of FoGISP, let them know.

Save the date!

The FoGISP Annual Meeting & Celebration is coming up soon:

Saturday, August 16, 3:45 – 6:00pm

Galveston Country Club

14228 Stewart Road

Please make plans to join us. We’ll be electing new board members, honoring volunteers and celebrating our accomplishments over the past year.

Michael Warriner is our featured guest and will be talking about bees.

Our annual meeting is the place to “bee!” You can meet FoGISP members, celebrate with us and learn how to become more involved with the Park.

There will be appetizers and beverages, sponsored by Vic Pearson of Moody National Bank (thanks!).

Fun day-camp for kids

This year’s Camp Wild – our thirteenth – attracted 59 local-area kids who wanted to learn about the State Park. They experienced a range of activities spread over five fun-filled days in June that included some exciting new modules.

These activities included the creation of personalized journals to record information such as date, time, temperature, cloud formation and weather. Campers also used plant presses to add horticultural finds to their journals.

Campers were asked to pick a particular color from a selection of paint chips and then find things in the Park that matched their color, thus opening their eyes to the myriad differences in nature. They loved it!

We created games that were specially designed to make the kids learn to work together – only when a whole team joined forces was their objective achieved. They also learned orienteering, using a compass to follow a map and locate treasure. Additional modules focused on birds, bees and insects.

After learning the basics of kayak safety and paddling, campers had lots of fun kayaking around the Park’s fishpond. They also discovered how to safely use a seine net, allowing them to round up some of the creatures that live in the waters of Galveston Bay, including a pregnant male pipefish!

Later, the kids arranged an assortment of plants and shells on a piece of photo-sensitive paper that was then fixed using sunlight. The resulting composition was made into a print using recycled Styrofoam.

Campers were taught the difference between point and non-point source pollution and saw how rainwater reaches the Bay. They then learned how oysters are able to clean the Bay’s waters by each filtering up to 50 gallons a day through their slippery insides. They created bags of oyster shells that will be used to create the foundation for a new oyster reef.

As you might guess, the kids had a fun time – as did the 38 volunteers (including teachers, counselors, counselors-in-training and Rangers from the Park’s staff).

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