Dauphin Island (including the West End)
There are many people who choose to make Dauphin Island their home and
live there year-round. They love its beauty and character, and its
different personalities - the calm of the foliage-heavy inland areas,
the quaint middle village, the brightness of the West End's white sand and
sparkling water views on all sides.
Yet some seem to view the West End as undeserving
of restoration or protection. Contrary to the beliefs of some, the West End is not just a string of
"impersonal" rental properties, owned by "millionaires." Below are
examples of real West End property owners:
There is the modest-income retiree who could finally afford to buy her first
Gulf view waterfront home at age 75, so that she could look at the waves and
seagulls. She doesn't rent and she comes down whenever she can
get someone to drive her.
There is the active duty soldier, home
on leave, who had to abandon her home on Christmas Eve 2009 due
to encroaching water. Read her poignant story on our
There is the man whose family had a
long association with the island, and he himself spent most of his
life on the island. The West End is his full-time residence.
There is the middle-class
retired couple who invested their retirement funds in a house
rather than the stock market. It provides a place they can enjoy themselves
on weekends most of the year,
and occasionally rent to make a little money on the side to supplement
their modest income.
There is the close-to-retirement-age woman, laid
off from her job, who is now struggling financially and will have to rent her beloved seaside
cottage (never rented before) just to survive.
There are many more stories like these. Most of these people have
a life-long love affair with the island. These people and the
money they spend on the island contribute enormously to keep the island
The typical West End "landlord"
And regarding those people for whom the island means income through rental
properties, why is that bad? These people chose to invest in
something that would help supplement their income, no different from
anyone else trying to build a retirement nest egg. They could have
invested in the stock market, which would have resulted in no added
revenue for the island. But they chose to invest in the island,
which helps everyone on the island. Investment in the
island is a good thing!
The typical West End landlord is not a billionaire developer who seeks
to erect multi-million dollar, high-rise condos as far as the eye can
see down the beach, blocking the view for others (as is the case in some
other coastal communities). They are mostly average, middle class
people who are just trying to get ahead like anyone else.
If the full-time residents and small-time landlords of the West End are
forced out by lack of action to stop erosion, there are several
possibilities of what could happen. Below is a scenario of a possible future, postulated by
several West End homeowners.
A Possible Future for the West End?
The End of the West End
A Hypothetical Happening
Concerned Homeowners on the West End
It is decided that the West End south
shoreline is not worth saving. A berm system is constructed on the
southern edge of Bienville Blvd to protect the road and the north shore.
Properties south of the road and the berm have no such protection.
Unlike other coastal
communities that work hard to secure both public and private funding to
keep their beaches maintained, some on Dauphin Island are strongly
opposed to any money spent on West End beach nourishment, even if it was paid
for with grant money or non-taxpayer funds such as oil and gas royalties.
So the public beach is never restored, and
the berm system
stands alone as the last line of defense for the road and the north
shore homes. But by itself, it is not
enough. The Gulf of Mexico continues its rapid march
northward, due partly to natural causes, but also due in large part
to sand starvation from the ship channel dredging. It soon
overtakes all the properties south of Bienville, then threatens Bienville Blvd
As dry land disappears from under the pilings of
one home after another, the utilities companies cut off services
to these homes, rendering them uninhabitable. The insurance
companies drop them, eliminating any chance of the homeowner recovering
something from the loss.
As the West End is overtaken or
breached in multiple locations, the entire area is declared uninhabitable
and must be evacuated. The homeowners are forced to sell for pennies on
the dollar, decimating what for many of them serves as their only
retirement income and investments, or worse, their only home.
The West End, particularly the south shore, is left with abandoned houses or no houses at all.
The displaced West Enders (those who still
have some financial means after the loss of their properties) move on to
purchase beachfront homes in other cities and states where beach
nourishment and shoreline maintenance is routine, and recognized for the
value it provides in tourism and tax dollars.
The tax base on the West End has now
all but vanished. There is little or no more revenue from what was once an
important financial resource, a resource which generated more than
half the Town's budget dollars. Some island businesses suffer
or close down. Taxpayer-supported Town services are cut or
After a period of time, with the island
experiencing severely lessened revenue and an increasing difficulty
to pay for public services, the real billionaire developers
show up, offering to "save" the town. These
purchase those same lots, what remains of them, for even fewer pennies on the dollar.
Suddenly, mysteriously, the West End is
deemed habitable again, even though nothing geographically has
changed for the better. The re-designation (for no apparent reason
other then dollars) that the West End is again safe for occupancy now
opens the floodgates for large-scale development.
The big-money developers set about rebuilding
the beachfront - widening the beach as much as they want - to erect
monster condos and commercial properties, blocking the view for anyone
north of these structures. With all their money and
power, these deep-pocket investors are able to designate the entire
West End Gulf beach as
private property, to keep out not only the general public, but other
islanders as well. Or, seeing an opportunity to make even more
money, they decide to make the new beach public (but not free, as it was
before), so they pave over a few miles of it for parking, and they charge a pretty penny for access.
The residents on other parts of the island
had watched (and some cruelly
cheered) as the mostly middle class, former West End homeowners
(who personally loved the island as much as others, and had a long history with it) were
uprooted by decree or by design. But then these same residents who
were glad to see the West Enders go were horrified to see those
homeowners replaced by large-scale commercial concerns and landlords who
"love" the island only for the money it generates for them.
These new land barons particularly love the 99-year tax abatements they were granted
(talk about public funding for private property!),
as their reward for "saving" the financially struggling Town.
The remaining residents sadly remember the days when just being a property owner
anywhere on the island gave them free access to the West Surf
Beach - a scenario which was the case for decades, long before the Property Owners Association deeded the
beach to the Town to make it open and available to the general public
back in the mid-2000's.
The character of the island is now
completely changed. It is no longer the quiet village it once was.
Some of the remaining old-time islanders leave, seeking a peaceful paradise
somewhere else - one that reminds them of the Dauphin Island of
years past, when the West End was a quiet and traffic-free domain, dotted with little beach houses on
stilts, and the public had free access to the
multi-mile-long beach along the Gulf.
Back to the Present
The above described future may seem far-fetched to some, but to others, it is far too
close to a possible reality for comfort.
One can list many rational reasons why to save the island,
particularly its West End. But there are the emotional reasons too
- the reasons why so many people decide to make the island their home, either
part-time or full-time. This includes West Enders too.
Of course West Enders are willing to fight
to save their homes. Anyone would. Why would anyone begrudge
More Reasons to Save Dauphin
If you have a story about how you love your island home (or the island
in general), and how you want to see the island protected from erosion
and/or your home saved,
email us and we
may post your story on our