So You Want to Live in ... Port Aransas

A Texas beach town lures weekend fishermen and full-time transplants.

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Sara Gray

Joy Morrow and Jim Lucas started vacationing in Port Aransas, Texas, 14 years ago. They both relished the welcoming, no-frills ambience, and their golden retriever, Buster, loved the water. Nine years ago, the couple decided that technology allowed them to run their industrial-supplies business from anywhere, so they made the move to the coast.

Full-time residency gives them a different perspective on this quiet beach town. During summer weekends and spring break, the official population of 3,800 can swell to 40,000. "We joke that in the summertime we hide, and after Labor Day we come out," says Jim.

Mayor Georgia Neblett and her husband first visited Port Aransas with their sons when the family lived in Houston and headed to the beach for weekends filled with fishing and lounging. They moved here in 1976. "This island has an eclectic makeup of people," Georgia says, "and it's a constant balancing act―development versus the way things have been."

To control development, the town enforces stringent regulations. Rick Pratt, a member of the city council who spent 20 years living in and restoring the old Aransas Pass lighthouse, says that any construction must be at least 1,000 feet back from the high tide line―and behind the primary dunes. No buildings in the old town zone can be taller than seven stories. And all Texas beaches are public.

"A family can get a $20 beach parking permit and camp there for a long weekend," says Rick. "And they'll be just down the beach from $500,000 condos. We have those two very different populations."

Approved construction does continue. When residents started raising money to build a community theater, Mayor Neblett and 12 other local women ages 41 to 78 joined the cause. They agreed to disrobe for the playful (but tasteful) 2005  "Treasures of South Texas" calendar. Representing July, the mayor appears wrapped in the Texas flag.

Was it tough to pose for that shoot? "Certainly," she admits. Was it worth it? "The new Port Aransas Community Theatre opened in January."

(published July 2006)

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