Sara Gray

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

By Des Keller

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

Full-time residency gives them a different perspective on thisquiet beach town. During summer weekends and spring break, theofficial population of 3,800 can swell to 40,000. "We joke that inthe summertime we hide, and after Labor Day we come out," saysJim.

Mayor Georgia Neblett and her husband first visited Port Aransaswith their sons when the family lived in Houston and headed to thebeach for weekends filled with fishing and lounging. They movedhere in 1976. "This island has an eclectic makeup of people,"Georgia says, "and it's a constant balancing act―developmentversus 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 livingin and restoring the old Aransas Pass lighthouse, says that anyconstruction must be at least 1,000 feet back from the high tideline―and behind the primary dunes. No buildings in the oldtown zone can be taller than seven stories. And all Texas beachesare public.

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

Approved construction does continue. When residents startedraising money to build a community theater, Mayor Neblett and 12other local women ages 41 to 78 joined the cause. They agreed todisrobe 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 inJanuary."

(published July 2006)

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