EDITORIAL — Pleasure Island: Stakes are low

Published 2:34 pm Friday, April 26, 2019

Sayre’s Law originated in academic circles, but forms of it have surfaced in real life, too.

It was named for a 20th century Columbia professor, Wallace Stanley Sayre, who was quoted this way on the topic of campus politics: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.”

That thought might well have hovered over discussions this week at Port Arthur City Hall, where much gray matter was spent on who was in charge at Pleasure Island, an overgrown and lightly populated piece of real estate that’s home to more wild pigs than it is to humans.

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That’s not to shortchange the 18-mile, manmade island that rests in natural splendor in Lake Sabine. It’s a beautiful place, rightfully treasured by those who live and visit there.

It’s treasured, too, by outdoorspeople — birders, boaters, anglers, shrimpers — as well as by people with long memories who can recollect a ballroom, midway, rollercoaster and pool. The island has sustained its share of calamities, including fire and hurricanes.

Nowadays, to most of Port Arthur, the island is a place mostly of possibilities. Old dreams were stoked recently when a successful developer suggested to the Port Arthur City Council that he’d like to build a hotel there, reopen the golf course, The Palms, and build restaurants and shops. That’s years away, if ever.

This week, talk was more mundane and centered on control of the mostly underdeveloped island. Who’s in charge: city manager? advisory committee? the paid director?

Interim City Manager Becky Underhill said the City Charter points to her as in charge, day to day. She’ll carry out the druthers of the City Council, which sets policy.

At issue, too, was this: Keeping tabs on volunteers. John Beard, who chairs the Island advisory board, expressed concern to the council that Carolyn Worsham, who with others have been trying to craft a nature trail along the golf course’s front-nine cart path, had borrowed city equipment to mow along the path.

In fact, Worsham had permission from former interim City Manager Harvey Robinson to use a city mower. In a letter to city leaders Wednesday, she lamented that resources on the golf course property are wasting away or are hidden from the public.

The clubhouse deteriorates; a fence bars the public from view of the dormant golf course, so that oaks and cypress trees, water features and migratory birds go largely unseen by Port Arthur people. She suggests the public should have access.

In the end, Underhill made the right call: If Worsham and other volunteers wish to exercise upkeep on Pleasure Island using their own tools, let them have at it. If they can carve out a nature trail, who loses?

Surely the pigs won’t mind.