River Grove Riviera: Park Adds New Feature

I always associated the word “Riviera” with a coastal region in France and Italy on the Mediterranean. But being a student of language, I frequently look up words that I think I know. Much to my surprise, I learned that the word has a second meaning. It also applies to any coastal region with a subtropical climate and vegetation. The origin of the word stems from 18th century Italian. It literally meant “seashore.”

History and Meanings of Riviera

The 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is really a history book of the language, indicates that railroad barons frequently used the word in the 1900s to lure vacationers to coastal areas around the world. OED’s last entry is from the October 19, 1943 edition of the Saturday Review, an influential magazine at the time. The OED quoted the Saturday Review as saying, “Every properly equipped nation must have a Riviera.”

Getting From There to Here

The term occurred to me when I saw the scene below while flying up the San Jacinto West Fork last Sunday near River Grove Park. So it is with tongue in cheek and humor in my heart that I apply the term to River Grove.

Looking NW. Partying on the sand dune outside Kingwood’s River Grove Park on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

This giant sand dune is the remnant of an even larger quarter-mile-long dune left by Hurricane Harvey. It took the Army Corps of Engineers to cut through it so that the Kingwood Diversion Ditch could empty into the San Jacinto West Fork. Then KSA still had dredge the area near the boat dock before the area became accessible.

Looking northeast at the same sand bar two weeks after Harvey. At this point, the River Grove parking lot was still covered with 4-5 feet of sand.

No Burger Barns or Tatoo Parlors, But…

Now the sand bar seems to be a popular stopping off point for people running the river and trying to squeeze a little more sunshine out of the day.

It may not be the French/Italian Riviera. Nor is it the Redneck Riviera. You won’t find people here for spring breaks, water parks, tattoo parlors, beer joints, crab shacks, burger barns or t-shirts.

But the sunshine is warm, the water cool, and it doesn’t require a trans-Atlantic flight or a 14-hour drive.

Enjoy it, but watch out for alligators and drop offs. The Corps dredged a 15-foot deep channel through the sand bar. Wading across is not safe.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/7/2020

1013 Days after Hurricane Harvey