The grant supporting these Eco-Art Adventures is from the Texas General Land Office Coastal Impact Assistance Program and includes the conservation of 160 acres of Galveston's coastal barrier island habitat on West Bay.
West Bay is part of the Galveston Bay system, an estuary of national significance. The Coastal Heritage Preserve project area is one of the largest unfragmented, single-owner, undeveloped properties of its kind on Galveston Island. Located roughly midway along the length of Galveston Island, the Coastal Heritage Preserve project is a critical piece in the West Bay Corridor Initiative, a multi-agency program to protect and restore critical habitats around West Bay. These efforts have included land acquisition projects and restoration projects on the bay side of Galveston Island, stretching from Sweetwater Lake to near San Luis Pass, on the mainland from Virginia Point to Chocolate Bay, and including islands in West Bay. In addition, the project area was identified as a high priority for conservation in the West Galveston Island Greenprint.
The Coastal Heritage Preserve represents the essence of bay coastal margin on Galveston Bay, with a full suite of habitats, from open bay water to salt, brackish, intermediate and fresh marsh, tidal flats, and upland prairie. It also exhibits a mix of ecologic, conservation, recreation, historic, and aesthetic values. Its habitat value to wildlife is demonstrated by the more than 30 avian species of conservation concern have been observed at the site and the value of its estuarine marshes to aquatic species.
Biologists from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have noted that the site of the proposed Coastal Heritage Preserve would protect diverse barrier habitats for plant and animal species of concern, as well as provide a unique opportunity to extend the protected status of the "emerald necklace" of these vanishing habitats on Galveston Island and around West Bay.
Furthermore, the project site was identified by the Technical Advisory Committee of the greenprinting process for West Galveston Island as among those having highest habitat protection priority because of its value for habitat, unfragmented area of undeveloped land, wetland buffers, habitat diversity, and as a salt marsh migration zone. The team that documented these values also had representation from state and federal agencies.
The project would allow for public access to view and appreciate these habitats, including educational programs that foster use of NOAA data tools and follow ocean literacy standards. The scale of the ultimate project would serve as a regional amenity, bringing a much-needed opportunity for the public to connect with Galveston Bay and the barrier island systems. This part of the barrier island offers rich biodiversity and is a great place to witness the affect of elevation changes on plant communities. These plant communities then dictate the animal community. The Coastal Heritage Preserve location is one of the most pristine places on Galveston Island to witness the changes in the flora and fauna community associated with different elevations on a barrier island. The careful management of public access opportunities will serve to increase awareness, and the stewardship it inspires, for greater conservation of these coastal and estuarine resources.
Preservation of the lands for the Coastal Heritage Preserve is envisioned as a multi-phased project, with the first phase encompassing completion of the acquisition and protection of the property. Once secured, project implementation would initially involve a combination of habitat preservation and a launching platform for public involvement kayak adventures, walking tours, and volunteer conservation initiatives. An intermediary phase could involve restoration, plus development of trails, boardwalks, viewing platforms, improved kayak access, parking, and interpretative signage. Eventually, the preserve would provide a site for a building that could house facilities for Artist Boat and the community, including laboratories, classrooms, meeting space, environmental arts gallery, dormitories for overnight stays, administrative offices. Additionally, the facility could demonstrate green building techniques that would be a model for coastal development.
The project involves multiple partners for both funding and implementation. As of 2012, Artist Boat has been approved for three grants for the project through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, two from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) and one from the National Coastal Wetlands Program (also known as CWPPRA). Application for a fourth grant through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) program has been submitted for the balance of the acreage. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department submitted the CWPPRA grant application on behalf of Artist Boat. The previous landowner, Marquette Galveston Investment, Ltd., has assisted with all planning. The current landowner, the State of Texas for the Permanent School Fund, has offered to make the entire 364 acres on the bayside of Stewart Road available for conservation, and the General Land Office is a partner throughout. The Galveston Bay Foundation and Cabeza de Vaca Center, Inc. have agreed to a donation of $350,000 in value of an easement on Moore Island across Eckerts Bayou from the proposed preserve, as match for the CWPPRA grant.
Each of the grants has separate documentation and contracting steps before the grant funds become available. Grant requirements will dictate acquiring separate parcels for each of the funding sources. Surveys, appraisals, and environmental assessments will be needed for each piece of the acquisition, some with very specific requirements to protect the public interest in the use of the funds.
For more information about Artist Boat's Eco-Art Adventures at the Coastal Heritage Preserve on Settegast Road, contact LuAnne Ashley at email@example.com or (409)770-0722.