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Since I’ve lived in Galveston, I’ve seen two major beach nourishment projects take place along the seawall. It wasn’t until I started working at the Park Board that I began to truly appreciate how these projects – and many policy decisions – come to fruition.
Park Board officials work on a city, state and federal level to advocate for tourism issues, coastal protection and other important issues to the Gulf Coast region. These issues are part of a legislative agenda put together by the Park Board in partnership with its consulting firm, Van Scoyoc Associates. Every year, the consultants and Park Board representatives travel to Washington D.C. to meet face to face with the ultimate decision makers.
The legislative agenda includes many topics. This year, some highlights include retaining a uniform school start for public school students, establishing a national recreation area along the Gulf and funding for beach nourishment projects.
When it comes to school-start dates, the idea here is to require schools to start late in August, maximizing the amount of time families can travel during the summer. Right now, schools are required to start no earlier than the fourth Monday in August. But, schools that are classified as Districts of Innovation can start much earlier, cutting into summer travel for families with school children. The Park Board is working to hold school officials to a standard that will benefit communities that rely heavily on summer tourism business.
Another priority for the Park Board is the establishment of the Lone Star National Recreational Area (LSNCRA). The LSNCRA is envisioned to be a non-contiguous cluster of open lands and historic sites within Matagorda, Brazoria, Jefferson and Galveston counties. Participation is voluntary among landowners and participants retain ownership of their properties. A custom-built promotional partnership with the National Park Service is expected to increase exposure to the area to national and international visitor markets and will put the area on par with other national parks.
Funding for coastal projects is also a priority. The Park Board has tentatively been awarded two separate grant awards from the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities Revived Economies (RESTORE), a funding program established with penalties stemming from the 2012 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The grants, for a pavilion at the East End Lagoon and for beach nourishment, are among the first competitively awarded grants through what is expected to be a 15-year process that will disburse $80 billion. Park Board legislative partners plan to advocate for increased funding from the grant program to be dedicated to Galveston – the Texas coast’s most densely populated and tourism-dependent region.
Park Board Executive Director Kelly de Schaun said, “We welcome the opportunity to bring issues that are relevant to the Gulf Coast region directly to policy makers. These meetings go a long way to foster partnerships that benefit Galveston and the entire region.”
Park Board meetings are typically held on the fourth Tuesdays of the month at 1:30?p.m. at 601 23rd St.