• 75°

JeffCo commissioners approve supporting recreation area

BEAUMONT — Outdoorsmen and nature lover got some good news on Monday.

The Jefferson County Commissioners Court approved supporting the creation of the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area after weighing the evidence.

The commissioners voted on the issue at their regular meeting on Monday afternoon. The LSCNRA is a federal bill to establish the recreation area to conserve, protect and promote the economic benefits of natural, cultural and recreational resources within a delineated Texas coastal area.

County Judge Jeff Branick said at a workshop earlier on Monday about LSCNRA, he was concerned about private property rights in creating the national recreation area, but upon further research he’s convinced private property rights are protected.

Movement on creating the national recreation area actually had its start five years ago when private landowners and nonprofit organizations discussed how to be more resilient in the case of another Hurricane Ike, according to Victoria Herrin, campaign director for the Texas Gulf Coast Texas Regional Office.

Branick said Texas would want to go with a public-private partnership.

Some of the highlights of the legislation Herrin gave include:

  • Economic development through expanded nature and heritage tourism and recreation.
  • No new regulations as a consequence of the establishment of the park unit.
  • Provisions protect and respect private property rights and current state and local laws.
  • Legislation does not interfere with public or private landowner control of hunting, fishing, development of oil, gas and other minerals, or use of powersport vehicles.
  • The partnership shall be composed of a specified number of members, with not more than 49 percent representing federal and state agencies.

Membership is voluntary and at-will and the LSCNRA is jointly governed.

Brent Weaver, Precinct 2 county commissioner, asked if there would be a cost to the county. Herrin answered there would not be a cost.

“It wouldn’t create any unfunded liabilities. It’s a no lose situation,” Branick said.

Branick said the conservation fund is also adding hundreds of acres to Sabine Ranch and 10,000 acres have been added to McFaddin Beach.

“This will create a lot more recreational opportunities. It’s a birding paradise there,” he said.

Herrin said a Friends group for the LSCNRA has been created to raise private funds.

“We’re hoping to really start to compete for this money,” she said.

She added that last year consumers spent $646 billion on the Upper Texas Coast.

“National parks are usually huge generators of dollars,” she said. “We know this area has a high quality of life. We would love to expand to Jefferson County.”

 

Background

A study released by Houston Wilderness, Rice University’s SSPEED Center and the National Parks Conservation Association in 2011, indicates the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area could triple tourist visitation and quadruple tourism’s economic impact in the area, according to their website.

Some details from the resolution read as the following:

The creation of the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area (LSCNRA)

has been proposed to meet the regional goals of historic preservation, non-structural flood mitigation and economic development compatible with heritage land uses and maintenance of open space for the Upper and Middle Texas coast.

A National Recreation Area can be governed by a local partnership including voluntarily participating local, state, and federal government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners and the specific boundaries of the LSCNRA will be established by the legislation but are expected to include portions of coastal Matagorda, Brazoria, Galveston and Jefferson Counties.

The LSCNRA is conceived to capture the economic benefits of the outstanding natural and historic resources of the coastal counties. The LSCNRA will enhance the recreational use and promote long-term, coordinated storm protection.

David Ball: 409-721-2427