Family bringing youth outdoors program to Port Arthur, seeking help from city council

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, July 20, 2022

A Galveston County family will soon be relocating to Port Arthur with the hopes of improving one of the area’s main attractions — the outdoors.

Jennifer MacNaughton, co-owner of Champions Outdoors, appeared before City Council Tuesday morning in hopes of garnering support and spreading awareness of their mission.

“Our youth programs have continued to grow and we’re expanding to Port Arthur with a new community project that we hope will have generations fishing for many, many years to come,” she said. “Our main goal when we do this is to teach safety and conservation… When we do these events, we call it tackle boxes over X-boxes, because when we have those families out there, they’re not touching electronics for hours. It’s an amazing miracle when you put a fishing pole in a kid’s hand, what they stop doing on electronics.”

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MacNaughton and her husband have purchased eight acres of land on Texas Bayou bordering the Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge as well as several fisheries. The land, she said, is large enough to host youth camps, provide recreational areas and space for duck hunters, and also has room to build their home.

The Hitchock resident said her and her husband’s goals for the next year include hosting 10 family fishing outreach days.

“We both are making a career in the fishing industry and we want to show our youth this is a fishing community,” she said. “This is a fishing town, and there’s a lot of people that come to this town and make money off the fish and leave. It irritates me, which is why we secured our eight acres in Port Arthur. We’re trying to bring the fishing money here and not let it go away.”

MacNaughton told council members they were in need of local volunteers, and also a liaison with the city to help with knowledge of permits and such requirements to avoid fines.

“As a veteran and as a woman, it is an incredible thing to sit there and watch a child catch their first fish,” she said. “Because it’s not just fishing; we’re empowering these young people and it shows them another avenue of life. It shows them another thing, and they begin to care about the outdoors.

“If we’re not teaching them to care about the outdoors, then all of these boat ramp projects and things that we’re looking at funding — who are we funding them for? We’re funding them for the kids that are coming to this kids’ fishing program.”

The program will enter its seventh year on July 31 and, on average, works with 50 children.

“I love fishing,” Councilman Donald Frank said. “I like your model — it is fishing over fighting and Facebook. We’re grateful.”

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