Galveston Conservation

With the West End of Galveston Island undergoing rapid development, community members are quickly working to identify land that could be set aside for conservation. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson has more.

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About a year ago, residents of West Galveston Island started a formal process of identifying the community issues most important to them. That process culminated in the Greenprint for Growth. Linda Shead is program director for the Trust for Public Land. She says the Greenprint identified nearly 7,000 acres that have high conservation value.

"Now naturally there's not going to be the resources, financial or otherwise, to protect all of those and the mapping process helps you prioritize them. It shows where you can save a piece of land that will best accomplish multiple goals or if your concern and your funding addresses drainage, well where on the island could you save land that would best help the drainage."

The Trust for Public Land uses scientific GIS-based data to map out the land and infrastructure. They then combine the data with input from stakeholders. Residents, city and state officials, property owners and developers all worked together to come up with five goals for the west end: to protect habitat and shoreline, provide drainage and flood control, preserve the character of the island and create access and connectivity for public recreation.

"Once those five goals were established, then we worked on coming up with strategies on addressing those and figuring out which ones might need more information. For example, they knew they wanted access and connectivity but how do you go about developing a trail system. They knew that they wanted to conserve some of this land, but how do you get the funding to do that."

The City of Galveston invited the Trust for Public Land to help them draft the Greenprint and partially paid for some of the work. The rest of the funding came from grants. Shead says the Greenprint isn't about stopping growth or taking land, but she says it's important for communities to be aware of these issues.

"The best way I think I can explain how important it is, is how distressing it is to residents when they wake up some morning and realize that the trees next door or the pond where they have been bird-watching -- you know the trees have been leveled or the pond has been filled for development. And they think oh what can I do to save this? And what we're trying to say is let's don't wait for that emergency situation, let's figure it out ahead of time. What are the special places and do what we can to save them before it's too late."

The Trust for Public Land presented the West Galveston Island Greenprint for Growth to Galveston City Councilmembers last week and made recommendations on how to fund future land conservation. Shead says they're continuing their efforts in coastal areas and have already started developing a Greenprint for Chambers County. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.


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