New Report Looks toward Upper Texas Gulf Coast to Attract Visitors, Boost Business, and Create Jobs for Texas

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   January 18, 2012
Contact:   Perry Wheeler, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-419-3712 or pwheeler@npca.org
Suzanne Dixon, National Parks Conservation Association, 214-288-1346 or sdixon@npca.org
Lynn Scarlett, Resources for the Future's Center for Management of Ecological Wealth, 805-895-7057 or lscarlett@comcast.net


New Report Looks toward Upper Texas Gulf Coast to Attract Visitors, Boost Business, and Create Jobs for Texas

Proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Could Bring Significant Economic Impacts to Texas

Washington, DC – As the American economy continues to struggle, a new report released by the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Houston Wilderness and Rice University’s SSPEED Center looks at the potential for tremendous economic impacts along the upper Texas Gulf Coast, achieved through creating a proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area. The report, Opportunity Knocks: How the Proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Could Attract Visitors, Boost Business, and Create Jobs, identifies the benefits of creating a new national recreation area in Texas and sets forth a plan to help achieve this vision.

The idea for a Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area arose in 2008 after Hurricane Ike devastated much of the Texas Gulf Coast, but inflicted less damage on parts of the region that were protected by undeveloped lands. A recent study by the SSPEED Center found that a national recreation area could help preserve that same natural landscape as part of a long-term, nonstructural flood mitigation system – and as the Opportunity Knocks report shows – it can do so while providing a significant economic boost for Matagorda, Brazoria, Galveston, and Chambers counties. According to the new economic report, Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area could triple visitation to the area and quadruple its economic impact in the first ten years of operation. By year ten, the site could attract 1,500,000 visitors, supporting $192 million in local sales and 5,260 local jobs.

“Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area has the potential to be a game-changer for the upper Texas Gulf Coast – both economically and through the preservation of this unique ecosystem for flood protection and enjoyment. While the economic benefits could be substantial, they are really icing on the cake, as the natural and cultural resources of this region absolutely deserve additional protections,” said NPCA Texas Regional Director Suzanne Dixon. “The National Parks Conservation Association supports further exploration of a national recreation area in the region and we look forward to an ongoing conversation with the local community and governing agencies.”

The upper Texas coastal region benefits from high accessibility and a wide array of recreational opportunities for visitors, including world-class bird-watching, fishing and crabbing, seasonal hunting, kayaking, biking, or exploring the cultural and historical landmarks of Texas. A national recreation area would promote year-round tourism and outdoor recreation, while protecting the invaluable ecosystem and cultural treasures throughout the region.

The initial study area for Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area looked at roughly 700,000 acres of tidal marshland and adjacent wetlands and coastal prairie, as well as more than 350,000 acres of bay and estuarine area. Lone Star Coastal would include only voluntary land-owning participants throughout the coastal buffer zone. With the flexibility provided by a national recreation area designation, Lone Star Coastal could develop a partnership that blends local priorities with National Park Service brand and policies, garnering the advantages of both. It would be built on a core of existing natural areas and heritage sites, and could include local, state and federal government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners.

“The Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area will give a much needed boost to tourism dependent small businesses throughout the upper Texas Coast by providing the framework needed to effectively promote the region’s natural amenities and recreational assets,” stated John A. Cronin, Jr., President and CEO of Houston Wilderness. “We look forward to working with our partners, from both the public and private sector, to make the project a reality.” 

The Opportunity Knocks 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.

According to Jim Blackburn of the SSPEED Center at Rice University, “This Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area is a creative economic development and hurricane surge flooding mitigation concept. 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.”

Earlier this month, local business leader John Nau and former Secretary of State James A. Baker announced the formation of a steering committee and partner coalition of community leaders to help facilitate and expand the conversation around a potential Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area. The steering committee and partner coalition will engage citizens, policy makers and organizations throughout the Texas region as partners in this effort.

“I look forward to working with Texas communities to make this vision a reality,” said steering committee chair John Nau. “Communities across the country attest to the economic boost parks and recreation areas provide. With a national recreation area designation, the upper Texas Gulf Coast could enjoy significant economic benefits.”

For the full Opportunity Knocks economic report, please visit: http://www.npca.org/txcoastaleconomic.

For additional information on the steering committee and the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area idea, please visit: http://www.npca.org/lonestarcoastal.

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About NPCA: Since 1919, NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its more than 600,000 members and supporters, and many partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come. For more information, please visit: www.npca.org.

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