What is the the concept behind the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area (LSCNRA)?

In 2011, a group of private property owners, local government leaders and managers of parks, preserves, refuges, and historic sites along the upper Texas Gulf coast got together to strategize about regional economic development and coastal resilience. On the table was a strategy to enhance Texas-led steward-ship and conservation, develop an economic sector compatible with periodic flooding, and expand and promote nature and heritage tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities. From this meeting, an idea was born: to engage the National Park Service (NPS)—with its domestic and international brand identity and marketing advantages—in a locally driven, regional-scale partnership that would become the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area.

As a unit of the National Park System, the LSCNRA could offer the region’s communities significant economic advantages, while retaining local governance and individual landowner control. It could provide a framework for economic development that supports private property rights, historic preservation, conservation, and traditional land uses; enhances employee recruitment and retention for local industry; and promotes small business. It is adapted and resilient to the periodic flooding that characterizes this coastal region, and is fully compatible with structural approaches to storm and flood protection.

The proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area would be a coalition of non-contiguous sites along the upper Texas Gulf coast joined in a voluntary partnership with the National Park Service with the goals of enhancing Texas-led stewardship and conservation, developing a coastal economic sector compatible with periodic flooding, and expanding and promoting nature and heritage tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities. The National Park Service’s expertise in education, visitor services, tourism marketing and stakeholder coordination, among other things, will make it a valued partner in this innovative partnership.

Texans are working with Texas’s Members of Congress to draft legislation for a federal designation establishing the LSCNRA to conserve, protect and promote the benefits of the natural, cultural and recreational resources of the upper and middle Texas Gulf coast. LSCNRA legislation will strongly protect Texas private property rights and encourage more tourism and economic opportunity along the Texas Gulf coast.

What is a National Recreation Area?

A National Recreation Area is a designation given by Congress to areas of land and water with significant outdoor recreational, natural, heritage, and cultural resource potential. National Recreation Areas are highly regarded and enjoy an enhanced stature among the universe of recreational designations. They are chosen because of unique recreational potential and are recognized and valued by tourists from around the world. A unit of the National Park System designated as National Recreation Areas is an especially good fit for Texas because it allows for significant local participation and control.

There are 18 National Recreation Areas in the US within the National Park System, including Lake Meredith and Amistad National Recreation Areas in Texas. Most emphasize water-based recreation. They range in size, contiguity, land ownership structure, governing institutions and functional purposes. The NPS provides a coordinating presence, but may own little of the managed lands

How would the proposed LSCNRA work?

More than two dozen public and private owners of some 250,000 acres have indicated that they want to voluntarily participate in the LSCNRA partnership, which has been designed with strong local governance and respect for private property rights.

  • A local partnership would include local, state, and federal government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private landowners.
  • A locally developed plan would guide the national recreation area and any agreements with associated sites.
  • The drafted legislation is customized for Texas values and independence, while realizing the significant benefits of voluntarily engaging with a NPS unit.
  • The National Park Service may own only the specific parcels of land identified in the authorizing legislation, and may acquire those parcels only by donation, exchange, or purchase with donated funds from willing sellers.
  • Participating landowners retain full ownership and control of their land. Participation is voluntary and at will. Partner organizations could participate in various ways, consistent with their missions and resources.
  • The diverse, landscape-scale partnership could position the region to com-pete successfully for funding and resources that traditionally have been unavailable to this region or to the individual partner organizations and agencies.
  • The National Park Service can play a coordinating role and contribute ex-pertise in areas such as education, interpretation, science, visitor services, recreation management, and planning.

The private nonprofit Lone Star Coastal Alliance has already begun raising private funds to support the proposed LSCNRA and associated sites.

Does the LSCNRA proposal have local support?

The LSCNRA is supported by coastal landowners, residents, businesses and organizations dedicated to protecting property rights, preserving fishing, hunting and outdoor activities, and enhancing tourism and economic opportunity in upper Texas Gulf coast communities. More than two dozen organizations and agencies, which together own more than 20,000 acres of land, have submitted resolutions or letters indicating their intent to participate in the proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area. The Steering Committee of the LSCNRA effort includes more than two dozen community leaders and decision makers who have helped shape the LSCNRA and build widespread support for the concept. These groups and many other area residents are actively working to obtain Congressional approval of the National Recreation Area plan.

To see a list of all LSCNRA Partners and Supporters, click here.

For a list of Steering Committee Members, click here.

How will the proposed LSCNRA benefit the local economy?

The economic value of the upper Texas Gulf coast’s mosaic of natural, cultural, and historical sites is largely untapped. Designation of the LSCNRA could develop this potential more fully, offering a range of benefits to participating sites and local communities. See Proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area: Economic Impact Projections (2019).

A 2017 economic impact study projected that the designation of the LSCNRA would likely add $140 million in local sales and 3,485 jobs to the four-county LSCNRA area in its first ten years of operation. See Opportunity Knocks: How the Proposed Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area Could Attract Visitors, Boost Business, and Create Jobs (Harbinger Consulting Group, 2019).

National Park System units generate considerable economic benefits for their local regions supported by visitor spending. A 2016 NPS report showed that NPS tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning about $10 for every $1 invested by the NPS.  The increased tourism significantly affects local economies as well. In 2016, visitors to NPS units contributed more than $34.9 billion to local economies and supported more than 318,000 jobs nationally. The report finds that NPS visitors spent an estimated $288.5 million locally, supporting 4,400 jobs and $410.3 million in economic output in the Texas economy. See 2016 Visitor Spending Effects: Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States, and the Nation (April 2017). 

Preserving natural spaces and recreational opportunities attracts and retains people and businesses. By offering a nationally recognized outdoor recreation destination adjacent to a major metropolitan area, the LSCNRA would help ensure that the upper Texas Gulf coast remains a top place to live and locate business. It would contribute significantly to the long-term economic and social vitality of the region.

How would local businesses benefit from the LSCNRA?

The LSCNRA could greatly increase tourist visitation and economic impacts in the upper Texas Gulf coast region in the years following designation. The principal economic beneficiaries would include vendors in the food, lodging, outdoor recreation and travel businesses. Other businesses will benefit by providing services or supplies required for operating, maintaining and sustaining elements of the recreation economy. Furthermore, the overall economic impact of more jobs and tourism dollars coming into LSCNRA will result in economic benefits across the region. Finally, a National Recreation Area will contribute to the quality of life in the area, which is critical to attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.

How will the LSCNRA attract visitors to the upper Texas Gulf coast?

Designation of a National Recreation Area along the upper Texas Gulf coast will put our region on par with the nation’s most outstanding, significant destinations and create awareness among tourists in the U.S. and abroad. In so doing, it will give us access to more than 380 million people who visit national parks each year, and significantly contribute to the economy and the communities near those areas.

How will LSCNRA be funded?

Upon designation, the partnership may develop a business plan for the LSCNRA that will include revenue sources identified by the partners to meet budget needs. It is anticipated that the partnership will minimize reliance on public sector funding. The Lone Star Coastal Alliance, with help from LSCNRA leadership, will raise funds to supplement substantially the LSCNRA’s budget. Funding may come from many sources, including local, state, and national competitive grants, foundations, and private donors. A small amount of federal funding for salaries of certain National Park Service employees who cannot be paid with external funds will be necessary

How is the LSCNRA proposal currently funded?

To date, 100 percent of funding required to develop the proposed LSCNRA has been provided by grants and donations from private sector sources in the region, and by the National Parks Conservation Association, a nationwide, non-profit membership organization in support of the National Parks System. Partners Coalition and Steering Committee members are volunteers and serve without compensation.

Will private land be acquired? Will private landowners be affected by a National Recreation Area designation?

Under the proposed legislation, no property may be granted to or acquired by the National Park Service except for the non-profit and government-owned tracts specifically referenced in the bill:  Houston Audubon’s Horseshoe Marsh Bird Sanctuary; City of Galveston’s Ashton Villa; City of Galveston’s East End Lagoon; Scenic Galveston’s John M. O’Quinn I-45 Estuary Corridor & Virginia Point Peninsula Preserve Complex; Cradle of Texas Conservancy’s Styner, Old Town Brazoria, and Surfside tracts in Brazoria County.  It also allows for federal inter-agency transfers upon agreement by the agencies. In addition, the legislation prohibits additional regulations being imposed on participating landowners.  Thus, the LSCNRA is strongly protective of private property rights

How will the proposed LSCNRA affect hunting and fishing activities?

Designation of the LSCNRA will not affect hunting and fishing activities. The rules and regulations regarding hunting and fishing will continue to be determined by the State of Texas. As is presently the case, each individual landowner, whether participating in the LSCNRA or not, will determine how hunting and fishing take place on their land within the guidelines of state law.

Will the LSCNRA make the area more resilient to coastal storms?

Coastal natural areas store hurricane storm surge water and support a resilient coastal economy. Creating the LSCNRA is a way to capitalize on the economic value of the area’s natural, cultural, and historical sites while supporting flood damage reduction.

What is the best way to show support for the LSCNRA proposal?

Creation of a new National Recreation Area requires Congressional approval. Legislation to obtain national recreation area designation has been drafted and plans are being made to introduce the legislation in Congress. Strong local support of the plan is critical to obtaining the votes needed to approve the bill. You can help by writing or contacting your Congressional representatives to express your support

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