Signs of progress on Bolivar Peninsula

January 29, 2009 8:36:09 PM PST
Some big steps are being taken in the road to recovery over the past few days on Bolivar Peninsula. The area has been without so many basics since Hurricane Ike made landfall that any little step turns into a big one.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The ferry ride to the Bolivar Peninsula is still a picture-taking opportunity, but what you find once you arrive may not be a good picture.

The view heading east on Highway 87 since Hurricane Ike ravaged this part of Galveston County is still not very welcoming, but there is progress in the form of a working ATM and gas pump.

Swede's Grocery, the first store to re-open since the hurricane, is fully stocked. Bread, milk and beer are the only items Abdul Malik can get delivered. For the other items, he drives to Houston daily to buy them.

He lives next door in a trailer while his wife and children live in Sugar Land. Like any good businessman, he hopes the sacrifice pays off.

"This is a good opportunity to say to people I'm here to help you. When they start coming back, they need to come back to me," said Malik.

And it's working. The store is almost never empty.

"We'd have to go all the way to Winnie or Beaumont and that's far for us, especially if you have kids," said resident Susan Campbell.

There are other signs of progress. While water and electric services have been restored for months, the phone service has just returned and the peninsula is teeming with contractors.

While some people have come back, many people haven't and the problem is all their debris that remains. County officials will soon start asking property owners for permission to go on their property to just remove it themselves.

The debris is hard to get away from, with many structures still sitting in shambles.

Acie Henigan and his wife and friends aren't bothered by it. They still make the drive from east Texas almost weekly to be at their fishing camp. With tools laid out, it's obvious the trips are a little different nowadays.

"We come down here to work now. We used to come down here to have fun," said Henigan.

The key is that they still come. And Abdul Malik promises even more progress very soon.

"Not slowly, it's coming back very aggressively," he said. County officials do not have a good number of how many people are living on the peninsula now and whether they are returning residents or just contractors working.

We may see more people return quickly as Galveston ISD plans to re-open Crenshaw Elementary and Middle School next week. It's another giant step forward in the road to recovery.

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