Gilchrist, Texas is an unincorporated residential community and beachfront resort along State Highway 87, located seventeen miles east of Bolivar Point in the Bolivar Peninsula census-designated place, in Galveston County, Texas, United States.
In 1990 and 2000, Gilchrist's core population was about 750, but would see more residents due to seasonal visitors. When the settlement was decimated by Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008, about 1,000 permanent residents had lived there, but were under evacuation orders. Several businesses in the community had operated to furnish necessities for permanent residents as well as tourists.
Located in Galveston County, this community was named for Gibb Gilchrist (1887-1972) who relocated and rebuilt the rail line from High Island to Port Bolivar following the 1915 hurricane destruction. This settlement before this event was called Rollover.
In 1950, a post office was opened at Gilchrist. A notable feature of the community is the Rollover Pass (or Rollover Fish Pass), which divides Bolivar Peninsula as well as Gilchrist and carries water between East Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It is regarded among sportsmen as a very popular fishing location in Texas with some the largest fish in the state. Rollover Pass was a natural pass that had been closed until 1955, when it was opened by the Texas Game and Fish Commission as part of its efforts to preserve and improve fish and wildlife resources.
Hurricane Carla caused damage to Gilchrist. In 1990 and 2000, Gilchrist's core population was about 750, but would see more residents due to seasonal visitors. On April 23, 1991 the community, and other areas of Galveston County, received an enhanced 9-1-1 system which routes calls to proper dispatchers and allows dispatchers to automatically view the address of the caller.
On September 13, 2008, Gilchrist was devastated by Hurricane Ike, which completely destroyed all but a few homes. About 1,000 permanent residents had lived there. The coastline along Gilchrist, once a straight line, became jagged and desolate, permanently altered by Ike's turbulent storm tide.
NOAA aerial photography reveals complete destruction of Gilchrist. The Rollover Pass bridge on Highway 87 was reduced to one lane. Of the 1,000 buildings in Gilchrist, 99.5% of them were knocked off of their foundations. The storm demolished most and washed others into East Bay and swamplands behind Gilchrist. Of all of the houses in one section of Gilchrist, one remained standing. Several houses in another section were still there. Pam Adams, homeowner of the "Last House Standing," stated that many of Gilchrist's homes were built before the latest building codes were enacted. John Lee, Galveston County's emergency management spokesperson, said that Gilchrist had been "wiped clean" by the hurricane.
After Hurricane Ike the United States Postal Service temporarily relocated Gilchrist post office box services to Stowell, Texas. Regarding returning, John Lee said "It's a very sobering experience that some don't want to go through again. How many will be back? We don't know."
By January 2009, of the communities in the Bolivar Peninsula, Gilchrist received the fewest returnees.
By 2011 Galveston County bought out 434 houses in Gilchrist since the houses were too close to the shore, post-Ike. The land will have limited uses.
As of 2014, homes and businesses have been rebuilt in the area, new residents are settling in, and visitors once again are able to travel through that section of Highway 87. The Rollover Pass bridge has two lanes open instead of the original three. But Texas Historical Marker Number 7166 has yet to be replaced at the Pass.
Government and infrastructure
The Gilchrist Volunteer Fire Department originally served Gilchrist prior to Hurricane Ike. After the Hurricane struck, the Gilchrist Volunteer Fire Department disbanded, and donated all their equipment to other departments many miles away. This upset many residents of the Gilchrist Community and others on the Bolivar Peninsula. Gilchrist is now served by members of the Crystal Beach Volunteer Fire- Rescue - EMS Department.
The United States Postal Service once operated the Gilchrist Post Office, which opened on September 16, 1950. The building was destroyed by Hurricane Ike and the post office, in name, was officially discontinued on July 31, 2010.
Gilchrist residents are zoned to schools in the High Island Independent School District.
GCA (Gilchrist Community Association)
The purpose of the GCA is to provide civic duties at Rollover Pass on the Bolivar Peninsula in the state of Texas and other civic and community projects to improve and enhance the quality of life for the residents and visitors of Bolivar Peninsula.
The GCA is a 501(c)4 organization whose members are from all over the United States. Their common goal is to save their community from being destroyed by outside interests and keep Rollover Pass open for everyone to enjoy.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS, GALVESTON DIVISION
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13-CV-00126
On April 19, 2013, the Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, Inc. and the Gilchrist Community Association filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, against Jerry Patterson, Commissioner; the Texas General Land Office; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Col. Christopher W. Sallese, District Engineer, Galveston District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, Commander and Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army.
The lawsuit was amended on January 13, 2014 to include additional assertions not discovered until after the original had been filed.
The private property owners, Gulf Coast Rod, Reel and Gun Club, and the GCA which manages the Pass property, have filed this suit to protect the Pass from being filled in with dirt and closed completely, thereby devastating an already storm-ravaged area and causing extreme hardship to the businesses who rely on tourism, and homeowners trying to rebuild after Hurricane Ike. A petition with 2,868 signatures has many comments which demonstrate the commitment of the signers to keep the Pass open.
Some of the concerns of both sides are: private property rights; the best fishing location for handicapped persons on the Texas coast; government coercion; beach erosion; siltation of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway; freshwater diversion; and economic effects.
Issues listed in the original lawsuit included: the GLO has no ownership rights to the property; false representation of data to obtain a federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to close the Pass; violations of the U.S. Constitution; violations of Environmental Policy, Clean Water and Rehabilitation Act requirements; failure by the USACE to analyze impacts of actions by those closing the Pass; failure to perform analyses of alternatives in the best interest of the public and socioeconomic impact; Rehabilitation Act discrimination against mobility impaired persons by not providing any alternate accessible place; discrimination against disabled persons in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; failure to consider and incorporate changes from Texas' recent judicial decision regarding public vs. private beaches; failure to address alternate structures such as jetties or groins to control sediment; and declaratory relief or injunction to prevent closure of Rollover Pass by the GLO.
An additional study by Lawrence Dunbar, Professional Engineer, has highlighted severe discrepancies in the money calculations by the GLO and their consultant Taylor Engineering for dredging the Intracoastal Waterway.
Notes and references
- "Handbook of Texas Online". Texas State Historical Association. 2002-02-21. pp. page for GILCHRIST, TEXAS. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Tim Heller, KTRK Chief Meteorologist (2008-09-15). "Ike's Aftermath from the Sky". KTRK TV abc13.com. pp. section about Gilchrist. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- "Handbook of Texas Online". Texas State Historical Association. 2008-01-17. pp. page for GIBB GILCHRIST. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Rollover, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Gonzalez, J. R. "Then & Now #15." Houston Chronicle. January 2, 2009.
- "News briefs." Houston Chronicle. Tuesday April 23, 1991. A14.
- Tresaugue, Matthew (2008-09-15). "For some on coastline, rebuilding may not be an option". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2008-10-21.
- Connelly, Richard. "Goodbye, Gilchrist." Houston Press. September 17, 2008.
- Hanna, Jason. "Their house survived Ike, but it's the only one left." CNN. September 19, 2008.
- Horswell, Cindy. "Holes left in wake of storms: Ike hit before some Texas communities recovered from Rita." McClatchy - Tribune Business News. January 19, 2009. Available at ProQuest, document ID 456273366
- "Postal Service Relocates Services, Deploys Portable Buildings." United States Postal Service. September 18, 2008. Retrieved on April 7, 2009.
- Aulds, T.J. "Buyout of storm properties one of largest in US." The Galveston Daily News. April 5, 2011. Retrieved on April 6, 2011.
- Bech, Melissa. "Gilchrist, someday I will be back." Houston Chronicle. September 2, 2009. Retrieved on February 24, 2010.
- "Postmaster Finder Post Offices by Discontinued Date." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on September 23, 2010. "07/31/2010 GILCHRIST TX GALVESTON COUNTY 77617 09/16/1950"
- Rollover Pass Litigation, Guidry New Service, http://www.guidrynews.com/story.aspx?id=1000051471; April 19, 2013
- Guidry News Service, http://www.guidrynews.com/14February/03414Complaint.pdf
- Wayne Stupka and Ted Vega, "Keep Rollover Pass Open" Crystal Beach Local News http://www.crystalbeachlocalnews.com/?p=19250
- Severance vs. Patterson, Cause No. 09-0387
- Ted Vega and Wayne Stupka, "Rollover Pass Litigation," Crystal Beach Local News, http://www.crystalbeachlocalnews.com/?p=20851, April 19, 2013
- "Rollover Pass Dredging Study," Guidry News http://guidrynews.com/story.aspx?id=1000058429
- "Handbook of Texas Online". Texas State Historical Association. 2002-02-21. pp. pages for GILCHRIST, TX and GIBB GILCHRIST. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Gilchrist, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Rollover, Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Gilchrist - Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
- 300 people still missing since Ike hit Texas
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Gilchrist, Texas