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Padre Island

Padre Island National Seashore encompasses 133,000 acres of America's vanishing barrier islands. It is the longest remaining undeveloped barrier island in the world. White sand beaches, interior grasslands, ephemeral ponds and the Laguna Madre provide habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna. The island also provides recreational opportunities for everyone to feel the wind in their faces and the surf on their feet.

In the early 1940s Padre Island was declared off limits to the public, and by 1943 seven bombing targets and eight strafing targets were located in what is now Padre Island National Seashore. To protect the coast from German U-Boat attacks, the Coast Guard occupied nine beach patrol stations on the island in 1943, though the next year the beach patrols stopped as the U-Boat threat diminishes. From the late 1940s through the mid-1960s bombing continued on the island.

The seven bombing sites were located about 14 miles south of Bob Hall Pier and extending south for 35 miles. The bombing sites were located about five miles apart, and were about 100 yards in diameter. A similar site also was located on Matagorda Island. The targets were used to train pilots from Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, Kingsville Naval Auxiliary Air Station and Chase Field at Beeville. Aircraft dropped practice bombs that contained a powder serving as a visual marker for pilots. They contained a charge equivalent to a 12-gauge shotgun shell.

In 1962 Padre Island was authorized to become a national park. Padre Island National Seashore was created "in order to save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration, a portion of the diminishing seashore of the United States that remains undeveloped .". The park comprises 130,473 acres. In 1966 the Padre Island ranges are decommissioned, and crews are dispatched to remove remaining ordnance. Later that year, bombing operations are moved to McMullen County.

Seeking a replacement for its unpopular bombing range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, the Navy chose an unpopulated spot on the south Texas shoreline. To reach the land from ships offshore, the Navy planned to send amphibious assault vehicles tearing across the dunes of Padre Island National Seashore, an island just off the coast. At 70 miles long and one-half to three miles wide, Padre Island is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. In July 2001 the Navy decided the site was "impractical" and removed it from its prospect list

In 1519, Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, believed to be the first white man to set foot on the island, called it La Isla Blanca. When Padre Balli claimed the island in 1800, it was known as Isla de Corpus Christi or Isla Santiago. Throughout its history, it has had other names, such as Isla de San Carlos de los Malaguitas and Isla del Brazo de Santiago. In 1804, Padre Jose Nicolas Balli founded a settlement named Rancho Santa Cruz on the island, about twenty-six miles north of its southernmost tip. Padre Balli received a grant and title to the island in 1829 from Mexico. In 1852, his heirs received a title to the island from Texas. The island was known as Padre Balli's Island, but usage cut the name to simply Padre Island.

Padre Island National Seashore has 65.5 miles of Gulf beach. Of this 4.5 miles (Malaquite Beach) are closed to vehicular traffic, 6 miles (North and South Beaches) are open to two-wheel drive vehicles and the remaining 55 miles (Big Shell and Little Shell Beaches) are open only to four-wheel drive vehicles.

Because a large part of the island is marsh there can be incredible numbers of mosquitoes at times, however, the normal offshore wind is strong enough to keep most flying insects off the beaches. This is one reason people do not go into the grasslands or off the beach, it can be extremely uncomfortable.

When Congress authorized the establishment of Padre Island National Seashore on September 28, 1962 (16 U.S.C. 459d, et seq.), surface ownership within the area was acquired by the U.S. Government. Private entities or the State of Texas retained the subsurface mineral interests on these lands. Thus, the federal government does not own any of the subsurface oil and gas rights in the park, yet the NPS is required by its laws, policies and regulations to protect the park from any actions, including oil and gas operations, that may adversely impact or impair park resources and values. There are over a dozen nonfederal oil and gas operations within the park. Oil and gas exploration and production have been actively pursued on Padre Island since the early 1950's. A total of 72 operations have occurred within the park.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:54:46 ZULU