The National Parks Conservation Association, Houston Wilderness and Rice University’s SSPEED Center has released its report, Opportunity Knocks: How the Proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Could Attract Visitors, Boost Business, and Create Jobs. Report News Release
The report identifies several benefits of national recreation area designation, including:
National Park Service visitor appeal. NPS affiliation would put the Upper Texas Gulf Coast on par with the nation’s finest public lands and offer exposure to national and international markets. At seven NPS sites similar to Lone Star, visitation grew an average of 565% in the first ten years of operation.
Coordination among land managers toward common goals and functions. Resource protection, programming, facility construction and maintenance, and signage can all benefit from coordination.
Reduction in property damage from flooding and storm surge. A national recreation area could promote long-term, coordinated storm protection. The cost savings could be dramatic, both in diminished property damage and in avoided costs of installing massive flood-control structures.
Long-term cost savings for local governments. Maintaining the region’s working and open lands makes local governments money over time.
“This Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area is a creative economic development and hurricane surge flooding mitigation concept," said Jim Blackburn of the SSPEED Center at Rice University. "It is a proposed evolution of the economic system of the low-lying coastal lands so that it is compatible with inundation, making our economy resilient and sustainable. This recreation area concept offers great potential and opportunity for the future.”
In December, local business leader John Nau and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III announced the formation of a steering committee and partners coalition to explore the idea of a national recreation area as an approach to economic development, hurricane flood abatement, conservation and recreation.
“Creating and developing a national recreation area along the upper Texas Gulf Coast would foster economic activity and growth, and bring national and international recognition to our tremendous natural and cultural resources,” Baker said. “This would be a boon, not just to the coastal counties, but to the Houston-Galveston region as a whole.”
Several officials in the region have endorsed the effort.
“A national recreation area would give our world-class coastal resources a level of national and international exposure that couldn’t be anything but good for business,” said Anne Willis, president of the Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
“The coordination and stature of a national recreation area could help Galveston County leverage its resources as we implement our new Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Conservation/Natural Resources Master Plan,” said Dennis Harris, director of the Galveston County Department of Parks and Senior Services. “This plan focuses on nature-based recreation and open space.”
“A lot of people come to Freeport and this area because of our fantastic outdoor recreation,” said Jeff Pynes, city manager of the City of Freeport. “We’ve found that nature is an important draw for opening people’s eyes to history.”
“Moody Gardens on Galveston Island gets two million visitors a year in search of ecotourism,” said Doug McLeod, president of Moody Gardens. “A national recreation area could offer an entire range of similar education and recreational benefits to our four-county region.”
“We practice collaboration here in Matagorda County to create opportunity for the many,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald. “A national recreation area could be a great tool to extend that collaboration beyond our county’s borders to other coastal counties.”
For additional information on the steering committee and the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area idea, visit: http://houstonwilderness.org/index.php/NationalRecreationArea.