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Pleasure Island offers haven to enjoy amid pandemic

Port Arthur’s Pleasure Island is an unsung hero of natural relief from the pressure and boundaries of COVID-19.

The 18.5-mile-long, man-made body of land provides hiking, biking, fishing, sunshine and fun.

Ronnie Moon, a lifelong volunteer for maintenance and cleanup of Pleasure Island, said the waterways are full of life as people flock to one of the few remaining outlets currently open, which is nature.

Ronnie Moon

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a stress reliever right now. A lot of people are coming out and enjoying themselves. People are loving it; they spread out and just enjoy the day.”

The island is a hotspot for bird watchers, fishers, crabbers, boaters, walkers and nature lovers alike.

“(The island) just provides a tremendous recreation conglomerate for people to use,” Moon said. “You can walk this levee or just take a slow scenic drive, enjoy the view and have a good time.”

Moon said the island saw a decrease in visitors after Hurricane Harvey. Other record-breaking freshwater rainfalls drove a large population of fish out of the waterways.

A family enjoys fishing on the North Levee on Friday morning on Pleasure Island.

Now, the marine life is returning, as are the people.

“I’ve seen people that I can tell don’t normally come out here,” Moon said. “When I see someone who doesn’t know their way around, I hand out these maps so people can try out different places on Pleasure Island. That’s how involved I am in it, and I can tell it’s just going to be a tremendous summer.”

By 8:30 a.m. Friday, 40-45 cars were lined up on the North Levee.

The high sun and clear sky brought Nederland natives Marcy and Kayla Modisette out to enjoy the day.

“It’s a nice day outside,” Marcy said. “It’s a way to get the kids and the family out of the house for awhile.”

For Logan Rubeck, a plant worker in Beaumont, the island provides much-needed time away.

Logan Rubeck

“I like to fish,” he said. “I haven’t been out here long but I’ve already got a few. It’s just a great place to relax, especially with everything going on.”

For Moon himself, the island provides an outlet for the 13-year retired veteran.

“If I didn’t have this right now, I don’t know what I’d do,” he said. “I’ve been told to stay at it because I’ve learned how to work with the county, (U.S. Army) Corps engineers and city officials. It’s just something I know I’m supposed to do.”

Moon visits the North Levee seven days a week to clean for public use.

“This is something that the public should get involved in,” Moon said. “Since everyone is locked in, this is a cause they can participate in by getting out and cleaning up their parks and recreation areas. There are two levees out here and each is six miles long. I can’t do 12 miles by myself, so I just ask everyone that comes out to clean up after themselves.”

After growing up on the river and lake, Moon is glad to see the marinas and waterways full of life.

“The kids are out of school, so you see a lot more kids out here learning to fish, crab and boat,” he said. “My own mother brought me out here on this North Levee and taught me how to fish. Since then, I’ve been coming out here for years and I know if these kids get just a little encouragement to come out here, they’d see how beautiful it is.

“There is just so much they can learn here about marine life, the birds, the winds and the moon. I think it’s a cycle of life that needs to come back, especially when it’s right here in your own backyard.”

Social distancing standards still need to be maintained on Pleasure Island, officials said.