Commission Agenda Item No. 9
Presenter: Dana Lagarde

Briefing
Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan 2012
August 30, 2012

I.       Executive Summary:  The 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan fulfills an eligibility requirement allowing Texas to continue receiving its allotted appropriation through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program.  Each state is required to produce a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan at least once every five years.  The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the state agency that holds the authority to represent and act for the state of Texas regarding the LWCF stateside assistance program.

II.      Discussion:  Recreation Grants staff will brief the Commission on the final draft of the 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan.  The plan must be approved by the Governor prior to submission.  The current plan expires December 31, 2012.  The entire draft can be found at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/grants/TORP_Combined_Set.pdf

Attachments — 1
  1. Exhibit A: 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Executive Summary

Commission Agenda Item No. 9
Exhibit A

Executive Summary

The 2012 Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan (TORP) fulfills an eligibility requirement allowing Texas to continue receiving its allotted appropriation through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program. Each state is required to produce a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan (SCORP) at least once every five years. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) is the state agency that holds the authority to represent and act for the state of Texas regarding the LWCF stateside assistance program.

The LWCF State and Local Assistance Program is the only federal source of funds partnering with states and local governments that is solely dedicated to protecting conservation and recreation lands for future generations of Americans.

According to the SCORP guidelines, the minimum requirements include:

  1. Identify outdoor recreation issues of statewide importance
  2. Evaluate demand of public outdoor recreation preferences
  3. Evaluate the supply of outdoor recreation resources and facilities
  4. Provide an implementation program that identifies the state’s strategies, priorities, and actions for the LWCF apportionment
  5. Include a wetlands priority component consistent with Section 303 of the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986
  6. Include Governor approval

The TORP goals are to:

  1. Assess current statewide outdoor recreation and conservation needs and areas of concern,
  2. Act as a guide on how to best administer Texas’ apportionment of the LWCF
  3. Create a resource for outdoor recreation and conservation initiatives, and
  4. Align with the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan

A cross divisional planning team collaborated to fulfill the requirements and goals of the TORP. This was accomplished through extensive research, the development of the most extensive inventory of Texas public parklands in existence, the creation and distribution of two public surveys, an update to the open project selection process, an overview of the state’s wetland conservation priorities, the development of a sustainable park design guide, and periods of public comment throughout the process.

As the second largest state in the nation, and one of the fastest growing in population, Texas must strive to be in the forefront of addressing the many challenges that arise. As Texas continues to be a predominately urban society our children are becoming less connected to nature. Obesity and health care costs are on the rise across the state and water resources are being challenged. The country is also recovering from the biggest recession since the Great Depression creating budget challenges for public funds.

Texas has also recently suffered major losses from natural disaster. In 2011 Texas experienced the worst one year drought ever documented, having overwhelming economic, environmental, and social repercussions for the state. From Nov. 2010 to Oct. 2011, over 30,000 wildfires raged across Texas; burning almost 4 million acres and destroying over 3,000 homes. Nearly 10% of Texas urban forests or 5.6 million urban trees have died as a result of this drought, with an estimated net economic loss of roughly $280 million. (Texas Forest Service, 2012) Wildfires touched upon 30 state parks burning over 9,000 acres of parkland. TPWD saw nearly a 5% decline in fishing and boating license sales equating to approximately $2.79 million in lost revenue. (Miller, 2011) A reduction in state park attendance due to the drought and wildfires has also had serious budget ramifications.

Texas has grown at an alarming rate over the last ten years; at 20.6% versus the national average growth of 9.7%. (Murdoch, 2010) With a total population of over 25 million, Texas has three cities with over 1 million people, more than any other state in the nation. As a predominately urban society and as only 2.5% of land in Texas is open to the public for outdoor recreation; parks and green space are limited for the general population.

It has been found that children ages 8 -18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day, over 50 hours per week, connected to a television, computer, video games and other electronic media (The Texas Partnership for Children in Nature, 2010).

Obesity rates in Texas have risen sharply in the last 20 years, with over 66% considered obese or overweight. Texas is near the top nationally in terms of the most obese and overweight, ranking in at 12th in 2011, putting Texans at increased risk for more than 20 major diseases. (Trust for America’s Health, 2011) According to the Texas Comptroller’s office, in 2009 alone, obesity cost Texas businesses $9.5 billion. If current obesity trends continue the projected cost will be over $30 billion by 2030.

Given these circumstances, policy makers and government officials must be prepared to address the increasing demands for providing citizens with “quality of life” services and must be able to meet these needs with fewer resources.

Communities are reducing flood and storm water infrastructure costs by using meaningful park planning and green space as a way to buffer against storm surges and pollution. Acquiring and maintaining parkland is also a viable solution to reducing air pollution. In the United States, urban park trees remove over 75,000 tons of air pollution annually, with a value of $500 million. (Nowak, et al., 2010) Furthermore, urban park trees have the ability to reduce air temperatures and human exposure to ultra violet radiation.

There is a well-documented scientific connection between access to outdoor recreation and positive physical health outcomes. Direct access to green space and parkland has been shown to correlate with improved cognitive function, increased self-esteem and better self-discipline, decreased levels of depression, lower stress levels, reduced cases of obesity, and an increased sense of community and belonging.

Promoting the most popular outdoor recreation activities and providing critical amenities can help increase participation rates and promote healthy lifestyles. For example, in addition to being identified as the top needed facility for both state and local parks in Texas, trail linkages are considered one of the key ways to provide access to parks and to encourage active lifestyles, which is vital to combating the obesity epidemic. A key finding in a review of more than 200 research studies by the American Heart Association in 2011 stated that every $1 spent on building biking trails and walking paths would save an estimated nearly $3 in medical expenses. (Trust for America’s Health, 2012)

Providing access to available facilities for structured or spontaneous activity and providing amenities enhancing park safety have been shown to significantly contribute to improved physical activity and reduced obesity levels among children and adults.

Access to green places can have a dramatic impact on a community. “For the last 99.95% of the last two million years, the human race has been living in nature and making our way by hunting and gathering; only in the last 10,000 years did we move into our first villages and develop agriculture (Kuo F. E., 2010).” Because of this, we have undergone rapid social evolution within a relatively short amount of time. Public health experts are only now discovering the multifaceted implications of living in increasingly urban environments. Just the presence of vegetation has been proven to have helped increase the sense of belonging. Studies have continually drawn the conclusion that regardless of social status, income, age, and other demographic predictors, the level of greenness corresponds to an increase in positive social ties and can lead to a more socially cohesive community.

Positive social ties can help reduce rates of criminal activity. Parks and recreation programs have long been a solution to crime prevention, especially for youth. “Since the 1800s, a consistent link has been made between youth’s opportunities to participate in recreation programs and the level of crime and delinquency.” (Witt & Caldwell, 2010). In Austin the Dove Springs neighborhood reported a 44% reduction in juvenile crime in 1998 following the opening of a recreation center and the introduction of a ‘Roving Leaders Program,’ sponsored by the Austin-Travis County MHMR.

In addition to improving quality of life, parks are significant generators of economic activity. Parks increase sales tax revenue, create jobs, attract new businesses, and increase personal income and property values. For example, the economic impact on sales for Goose Island State Park in Aransas County was estimated to be over $7 million with almost 200 jobs created in 2006. (Crompton & Culpepper, 2006). The total economic impact reported for local parks in the same year was a massive $5.51 billion in spending and 38,390 jobs created statewide. (The Perryman Group, 2006).

An increasing trend in bird and wildlife viewing has also benefited Texas. Nature tourists in south Texas partaking in bird or wildlife watching activities contribute over $300 million to the Rio Grande Valley economy per year. (Woosnam, Dudensing, Hanselka, & An, 2011)

According to recent surveys, Texans overwhelmingly agree that both state and local governments have a responsibility to provide public outdoor recreation lands and facilities; however, park and recreation budgets are limited due to the recent national recession, record drought, and wildfires.

By engaging in a concerted strategic planning process, and supporting park acquisition, sustainable development, and outdoor recreation programs; we can promote healthy lifestyles and address environmental concerns while reducing costs and increasing revenue.

The below recommendations were developed based on the research and data collected through the 2012 TORP planning process. Six recommendations with action items were identified according to need and feasibility in promoting a more holistic planning process on both the state and local levels. Implementation of this plan will bring Texas closer to realizing the full potential of the economic, mental, physical, social, environmental and community benefits that parks and outdoor recreation provide.

Plan Recommendations

1.      Promote to general public and decision makers the total economic value of parks and recreation as it relates to attracting tourism, economic development and improving the quality of life.

Action Item 1A:  Create a working group made up of federal, state, and local parks and recreation providers to support a system of parks and the benefits they provide.

Action Item 1B:  Take a more active leadership role in state, regional and local planning efforts to incorporate the benefits that parks and outdoor recreation programming can produce in the physical, mental, social, and economic well-being for the citizens of Texas.

Action Item 1C:  Engage the Texas Interagency Obesity Council to further incorporate parks and recreation as a solution to the obesity epidemic.

Action Item 1D:  Coordinate with local law enforcement to identify parks and recreation sites and develop programming to reduce neighborhood crime.

Action Item 1E:  Collaborate with other agencies, organizations and schools to engage youth in conservation and outdoor recreation programs.

2.      Seek sustainable funding and leverage resources to meet the expanding outdoor recreation and conservation needs of the growing, diverse and predominately urban population of Texas.

Action Item 2A: Capitalize on the research showing public support and a willingness-to-pay for land and water conservation and outdoor recreation.

Action Item 2B:  Take on an expanded role in supporting funding initiatives concerning outdoor recreation and conservation.

Action Item 2C:  Identify additional resources to implement the Texas Children in Nature Strategic Plan and the Community Outdoor Outreach Program.

Action Item 2D:  Improve coordination to further leverage outside funding opportunities.

Action Item 2E: Seek additional grant opportunities for conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities.

3.      Respond to prominent outdoor recreation trends.

Action Item 3A:   Promote trails, greenways and linkages to encourage active lifestyles.

Action Item 3B:  Inventory, prioritize and develop trail opportunities.

Action Item 3C:  Partner with the Texas Nature Tourism Council and other nature based recreation groups to identify creative ways of promoting nature and heritage tourism.

Action Item 3D:  Continue efforts to provide new acquisition and development of parklands near urban areas through the Open Project Selection Process for state and local grants.

Action Item 3E:  Provide new recreational opportunities for changing demographics.

4.      Manage access to public waters for recreation.

Action Item 4A:  Create an inventory of boat ramps under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) authority.

Action Item 4B:  Use a team approach involving all affected TPWD divisions in the decision making process on the best use of available resources for the improvement and development of boat access facilities.

5.      Maintain the commitment to periodically review the Open Project Selection Process (OPSP) and grant administration guidelines for state and local parks to ensure they adequately reflect current statewide outdoor recreation and conservation values and trends, and are effective and easy to understand.

Action Item 5A:  Create a process on how to allocate the state and local share of LWCF grants.

Action Item 5B:  Continue to utilize the Urban Park Director’s Focus Group to strategize how best to address scoring criteria for Urban Local Park grants.

Action Item 5C:  Continue to hold statewide public meetings to address the local park OPSP.

Action Item 5D:  Work with other TPWD divisions on how to best evaluate the Local Park Grant Scoring Criteria regarding acquiring and conserving wetlands and sustainable park development.

Action Item 5E:  Utilize the 2012 Inventory of Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Lands to identify GIS data for grant funded projects in Texas.

6.      Efficiently manage land, water and facilities for sustainable public use.

Action Item 6A:  Take an active role in state, regional, and local planning efforts for water conservation and protection.

Action Item 6B:  Promote sustainable park design and green infrastructure as an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to non-sustainable construction.

Action Item 6C:  Provide technical guidance and assistance to local governments, developers and citizens for sustainable park design and green infrastructure.


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