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«Recreation Plan Recreation Grants Branch State Parks Division 4200 Smith School Road • Austin, Texas 78744 © 2012 TPWD. PWD ...»

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It has been found that children ages 8 -18 spend an average of 7.5 hours a day, over 50 hours per week, connected to a television, computer, video games and other electronic media (The Texas Partnership for Children in Nature, 2010).

Obesity rates in Texas have risen sharply in the last 20 years, with over 66% considered obese or overweight. Texas is near the top nationally in terms of the most obese and overweight, ranking in at 12th in 2011, putting Texans at increased risk for more than 20 major diseases. (Trust for America’s Health, 2011) According to the Texas Comptroller’s office, in 2009 alone, obesity cost Texas businesses $9.5 billion. If current obesity trends continue the projected cost will be over $30 billion by 2030.

Given these circumstances, policy makers and government officials must be prepared to address the increasing demands for providing citizens with “quality of life” services and must be able to meet these needs with fewer resources.

Communities are reducing flood and stormwater infrastructure costs by using meaningful park planning and green space as a way to buffer against storm surges and pollution.

Acquiring and maintaining parkland is also a viable solution to reducing air pollution. In the United States, urban park trees remove over 75,000 tons of air pollution annually, with a value of $500 million. (Nowak, et al., 2010) Furthermore, urban park trees have the ability to reduce air temperatures and human exposure to ultra violet radiation.

There is a well-documented scientific connection between access to outdoor recreation and positive physical health outcomes. Direct access to green space and parkland has been shown to correlate with improved cognitive function, increased self-esteem and better selfdiscipline, decreased levels of depression, lower stress levels, reduced cases of obesity, and an increased sense of community and belonging.

viii Executive Summary Texas Outdoor Recreation Plan Promoting the most popular outdoor recreation activities and providing critical amenities can help increase participation rates and promote healthy lifestyles. For example, in addition to being identified as the top needed facility for both state and local parks in Texas; trail linkages are considered one of the key ways to provide access to parks and to encourage active lifestyles, which is vital to combating the obesity epidemic. A key finding in a review of more than 200 research studies by the American Heart Association in 2011 stated that every $1 spent on building biking trails and walking paths would save an estimated nearly $3 in medical expenses. (Trust for America’s Health, 2012) Providing access to available facilities for structured or spontaneous activity and providing amenities enhancing park safety have been shown to significantly contribute to improved physical activity and reduced obesity levels among children and adults.

Access to green places can have a dramatic impact on a community. “For the last 99.95% of the last two million years, the human race has been living in nature and making our way by hunting and gathering; only in the last 10,000 years did we move into our first villages and develop agriculture (Kuo F. E., 2010).” Because of this, we have undergone rapid social evolution within a relatively short amount of time. Public health experts are only now discovering the multifaceted implications of living in increasingly urban environments. Just the presence of vegetation has been proven to have helped increase the sense of belonging. Studies have continually drawn the conclusion that regardless of social status, income, age, and other demographic predictors, the level of greenness corresponds to an increase in positive social ties and can lead to a more socially cohesive community.

Positive social ties can help reduce rates of criminal activity. Parks and recreation programs have long been a solution to crime prevention, especially for youth. “Since the 1800s, a consistent link has been made between youth’s opportunities to participate in recreation programs and the level of crime and delinquency.” (Witt & Caldwell, 2010). In Austin the Dove Springs neighborhood reported a 44% reduction in juvenile crime in 1998 following the opening of a recreation center and the introduction of a ‘Roving Leaders Program,’ sponsored by the Austin-Travis County MHMR.

In addition to improving quality of life, parks are significant generators of economic activity.

Parks increase sales tax revenue, create jobs, attract new businesses, and increase personal income and property values. For example, the economic impact on sales for Goose Island State Park in Aransas County was estimated to be over $7 million with almost 200 jobs created in 2006. (Crompton & Culpepper, 2006). The total economic impact reported for local parks in the same year was a massive $5.51 billion in spending and 38,390 jobs created statewide. (The Perryman Group, 2006).

An increasing trend in bird and wildlife viewing has also benefited Texas. Nature tourists in south Texas partaking in bird or wildlife watching activities contribute over $300 million to the Rio Grande Valley economy per year. (Woosnam, Dudensing, Hanselka, & An, 2011) According to recent surveys, Texans overwhelmingly agree that both state and local governments have a responsibility to provide public outdoor recreation lands and facilities;

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By engaging in a concerted strategic planning process, and supporting park acquisition, sustainable development, and outdoor recreation programs; we can promote healthy lifestyles and address environmental concerns while reducing costs and increasing revenue.

The below recommendations were developed based on the research and data collected through the 2012 TORP planning process. Six recommendations with action items were identified according to need and feasibility in promoting a more holistic planning process on both the state and local levels. Implementation of this plan will bring Texas closer to realizing the full potential of the economic, mental, physical, social, environmental and community benefits that parks and outdoor recreation provide.

Plan Recommendations

1. Promote to general public and decision makers the total economic value of parks and recreation as it relates to attracting tourism, economic development and improving the quality of life.

Action Item 1A: Create a working group made up of federal, state, and local parks and recreation providers to support a system of parks and the benefits they provide.

Action Item 1B: Take a more active leadership role in state, regional and local planning efforts to incorporate the benefits that parks and outdoor recreation programming can produce in the physical, mental, social, and economic well-being for the citizens of Texas.

Action Item 1C: Engage the Texas Interagency Obesity Council to further incorporate parks and recreation as a solution to the obesity epidemic.

Action Item 1D: Coordinate with local law enforcement to identify parks and recreation sites and develop programming to reduce neighborhood crime.

Action Item 1E: Collaborate with other agencies, organizations and schools to engage youth in conservation and outdoor recreation programs.

2. Seek sustainable funding and leverage resources to meet the expanding outdoor recreation and conservation needs of the growing, diverse and predominately urban population of Texas.

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Action Item 2B: Take on an expanded role in supporting funding initiatives concerning outdoor recreation and conservation.

Action Item 2C: Identify additional resources to implement the Texas Children in Nature Strategic Plan and the Community Outdoor Outreach Program.

Action Item 2D: Improve coordination to further leverage outside funding opportunities.

Action Item 2E: Seek additional grant opportunities for conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities.

3. Respond to prominent outdoor recreation trends.

Action Item 3A: Promote trails, greenways and linkages to encourage active lifestyles.

Action Item 3B: Inventory, prioritize and develop trail opportunities.

Action Item 3C: Partner with the Texas Nature Tourism Council and other nature based recreation groups to identify creative ways of promoting nature and heritage tourism.

Action Item 3D: Continue efforts to provide new acquisition and development of parklands near urban areas through the Open Project Selection Process for state and local grants.

Action Item 3E: Provide new recreational opportunities for changing demographics.

4. Manage access to public waters for recreation.

Action Item 4A: Create an inventory of boat ramps under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) authority.

Action Item 4B: Use a team approach involving all affected TPWD divisions in the decision making process on the best use of available resources for the improvement and development of boat access facilities.

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Action Item 5A: Create a process on how to allocate the state and local share of LWCF grants.

Action Item 5B: Continue to utilize the Urban Park Director’s Focus Group to strategize how best to address scoring criteria for Urban Local Park grants.

Action Item 5C: Continue to hold statewide public meetings to address the local park OPSP.

Action Item 5D: Work with other TPWD divisions on how to best evaluate the Local Park Grant Scoring Criteria regarding acquiring and conserving wetlands and sustainable park development.

Action Item 5E: Utilize the 2012 Inventory of Outdoor Recreation and Conservation Lands to identify GIS data for grant funded projects in Texas.

6. Efficiently manage land, water and facilities for sustainable public use.

Action Item 6A: Take an active role in state, regional, and local planning efforts for water conservation and protection.

Action Item 6B: Promote sustainable park design and green infrastructure as an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to non-sustainable construction.

Action Item 6C: Provide technical guidance and assistance to local governments, developers and citizens for sustainable park design and green infrastructure.

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Introduction As the second largest state in the nation, and one of the fastest growing in population, Texas must strive to be in the forefront of addressing the many challenges that arise. As Texas continues to be a predominately urban society our children are becoming less connected to nature. Obesity and health care costs are on the rise across the state and our water resources are being challenged from the worst drought on record. The country is also recovering from the biggest recession since the Great Depression creating budget challenges for public funds.

Texas has also recently suffered major losses from natural disaster. In 2011 Texas experienced the worst one year drought ever documented, which had overwhelming economic, environmental, and social repercussions for the state.

Given these challenges, policy makers and government officials must be prepared to address the increasing demands for providing citizens with basic services (such as clean water and opportunities for a healthy lifestyle) and must be able to meet these future needs with fewer resources.

The following are the TORP goals:

1. Assess current statewide outdoor recreation and conservation needs and areas of concern;

2. Act as a guide on how to best administer Texas’ apportionment of the LWCF

3. Create a resource for outdoor recreation and conservation initiatives, and

4. Align with the TPWD Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Pan The Land and Water Conservation Fund The LWCF Act of 1965 authorized the distribution of matching grants to states and local governments for statewide outdoor recreation planning, and to leverage public and private investment in public outdoor recreation through the acquisition and development of outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreation areas and facilities, and to stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources across the U. S.

The LWCF State and Local Assistance Program is the only federal source of funds partnering with states and local governments that is solely dedicated to protecting conservation and recreation lands for future generations. Program funding is appropriated annually by Congress. Federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf are the primary source of funding for this program.

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According to the LWCF 2010 Annual Report, the goals of the State and Local

Assistance Program are to:

• Meet state and locally identified public outdoor recreation resources needs to strengthen the health and vitality of the American People.

• Increase the number of protected state and local outdoor recreation resources and ensure their availability for public use in perpetuity.

• Encourage sound planning and long-term partnerships to expand the quantity and ensure the quality of needed state and local outdoor recreation resources.

Planning Process The development of the 2012 TORP started with a review of the SCORP guidelines, previous TORP documents, and other national and state plans and documents. State strategies met through this document are identified in Appendix C.

A proposal for implementation was developed by the TPWD Recreation Grants Branch, Local Park Grants Program for internal executive review. After approval of the proposal by the Executive Office, the planning team was assembled. The team consisted of key staff from TPWD including: State Parks Division, Communications Division, Executive Administration Land Acquisition Office, Infrastructure Division, Inland Fisheries Division, and the Project Management Office. Figure 1.1 outlines the planning process by identifying each team component.

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Project Management Project management and integration of the document remained under the Recreation Grants Branch, Local Park Grants Program.

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