Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Education Committee
May 23, 2007Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 23rd day of May, 2007, there came to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
- Donato D. Ramos, Laredo, Texas, Committee Chair
- Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Philip Montgomery, Dallas, Texas (Absent)
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I will call the Outreach and Education Committee meeting to order at this time. The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting's minutes. Do I have a motion?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Moved by Commissioner Holt and seconded by Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor, say, Aye.
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Opposed?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Motion passes.
Item Number 1, Land and Water Plan update, Mr. Cook?
MR. COOK: Thank you. Mr. Chairman, first of all, I'd like to be sure since we moved on here so effectively to be sure that our supervisors make sure that their presenters are in the audience and good to go. On our Land and Water Plan update, we have 12 videos recognizing the 2007 Lone Star Land Steward winners that will be shown at our banquet event this evening. Again, I hope you can join us there. The festivities start around 5:00, just visiting. About 5:30, we'll get down to some introductions and presentations, and actually present the awards and certificates all starting about 6:00.
We will broadcast those in the upcoming season of the Parks and Wildlife television series, these same videos. The video of the statewide winner will be distributed as a video news report to TV news programs across the state. In addition, a feature article is scheduled to run in the November '07 issue of the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. The article will also encourage interested parties to nominate ranchers for the 2008 award season. We've already gotten really good coverage on this year's winners across the state. There are lots of articles appearing. So that's going well.
The April 25th launch event of the new Goliad Paddling Trail attracted significant news coverage and also drew postings on several paddling and fishing-related websites and forums. Commissioner Montgomery, along with the Wildlife Division, Inland Fisheries Division, state parks staff and partners all attended the event celebrating one of a half dozen or so new paddling trails opening this year.
Our marketing and creative services developed and placed ads promoting the new State Park Guide in the Texas Co-Op Power magazine, Texas Monthly, and TPWD Magazine in April and May, resulting in approximately 8,500 online requests from future park visitors to have the guide mailed to their homes. The guide can also be viewed online in English and in Spanish.
Our Urban Outdoor Program staff coordinated participation in the Austin area Cinco de Mayo event, which attracted over 40,000 Hispanics. Staff volunteers from various divisions participated in this effort to reach out to new audiences not familiar with TPWD programs.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Any discussion?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Committee Item Number 2, "Nobody's Waterproof" Campaign, Ms. Brandi Bradford and Mr. Al Campos, please.
MR. CAMPOS: Good morning. This is Brandi Bradford, Boater Education Coordinator, and I'm Alfonso Campos, Chief of Marine Enforcement. This summer, the Communications and Law Enforcement Divisions will be working together to introduce and implement a marketing and outreach program designed to literally deliver our safety message to Texas boaters and water enthusiasts. "Nobody's Waterproof," it's a program developed by the Lower Colorado River Authority and it has been used successfully in the Highland Lakes of Central Texas. It was recognized at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit in San Antonio as the recipient of the 2007 Boating Education Advancement Award. This was a summit that was co-hosted by Parks and Wildlife and was attended by over 400 water safety professionals.
Texas lakes will see a comprehensive communications program that includes social marketing and an outreach campaign. The Department will take the program statewide to historically targeted busy regions, busy lakes, in the state. The message will address problems that we see on Texas lakes, including alcohol involvement in up to 50 percent of the accidents, failure to wear life jackets by boating accident drowning victims, and the high prevalence of boating injuries involving personal watercrafts.
Most accidents include an open style motor boat and those are going to be the people that we'll be reaching to with our message. They happen on weekends from noon to 7:00. Victims typically fall overboard and they're not wearing a life jacket. Male operators are usually involved between the ages of 26 and 50 years. This is reflected in the most common citation activity, historically not having enough life jackets on board the boat, and children under age 13 not wearing a life jacket while the boat is underway.
Now, Brandi Bradford, our Boater Education Coordinator will provide a review of the campaign.
MS. BRADFORD: Thank you, Alfonso. Again, I'm the new Boater Education Coordinator. I just got started last summer. I'm very excited. One of the things I was tasked with doing is reaching that young adult market PWC users and encouraging more people to take Boater Education courses. This is a great program that we are really excited about getting the message out. We think this will be really effective towards doing that.
It's a really innovative social-marketing campaign. Again, it's been coordinated with LCRA and has been a really good Parks and Wildlife team effort, particularly with our Law Enforcement Division. My thanks to Alfonso for really helping us coordinate this. We've gotten a lot of support from the Game Wardens throughout the program. They are going to be stepping up BWI enforcement, especially on the major lakes, Lewisville, Clear Lake, and Lake Travis.
In order to supplement that enforcement effort, we're going to be going at it with a different tack, with fun outreach activities. I don't know. Did everybody see the boat outside? That's our great outreach tool that we're going to be using this year. There's been great participation as well by our Marketing Department. Everybody in the Communications Division has really worked together to put this together, including Marketing, Boater Ed, News and Information, our A/V Production team, which you guys are going to see an example of their work here in a little bit, our Graphics Department, and the Web Team. The intent, again, is to provide a fun outreach program that instead of asking the public to come to us to get water and boating-safety messages, we're going to go to them.
This program was developed by Enviromedia. The intent is to add humor and entertainment. Has anybody ever been out to Devil's Cove at Lake Travis?
MS. BRADFORD: You avoid it like the plague? Yes, exactly, that's actually the group that we're trying to affect. You're not going to get them to come to a shoreline water safety activity. You really have to take the message to them.
The intent is hopefully to change behaviors. Enforcement does that in a really effective way, but we're trying to get at it from another angle and get them to start wearing their life jackets, get them to start designating a driver, and doing some of the other activities that we're hoping they will follow.
Again, it's social marketing. We're going to go where they go. It's all about the audience. I'd like to introduce our Outreach Team, Jennifer and Sam. They were just hired to be our peer group that is going to be actually effective. I'm 35 years old and too old for this marketing. So we've hired 20-somethings to get out there and do that for us.
It will be supported with traditional tactics. We are partnering with the Corps of Engineers, other water safety coalitions around the state, to provide shoreline activities in addition to the boat that we'll be taking out on the water. Again, our primary target audience is males age 18 to 34, their buddies, girlfriends, and peers. Girlfriends have a large effect on what their boyfriends do, or not, depending on the day.
The secondary audience is families, lake residents, and businesses, and potential sponsors. We have been blessed to be funded this year for the program and we're hoping to get sponsorships to help fund it for additional years.
The key messages that we'll be passing on is that "Nobody's waterproof, play it safe." If you've heard any of the press releases or news stories that we've had on this the last week or so, we are in the middle of National Safe Boating Week right now. We're asking people to wear life jackets, designate a driver, take a boating safety course and pay attention to their party, be it their friends or family. The campaign isn't just focused on boating. It's also shoreline water safety. So we're encouraging people to do things like wear sunscreen, drink lots of water, have the right equipment, that kind of thing.
The outreach has three facets to it. It's
water-based, land-based, and web-based. With the land-based, you've probably seen these types of events before at Volente Beach or other places. We have things like life jacket tosses and things like that. The web-based program is wonderful, nobodyswaterproof.com. I encourage you to take a look at it if you get a chance. We've got not only just water safety information, but stories. There's a contest, and we're actually going to have surveys on the website as well, because we'd like to see what kind of effect we're having when we're out there. We'll be doing surveys as well afterwards, in-person surveys, at the major lakes that we'll be hitting so we can actually get back information on whether they're having an effect and if they're changing their behaviors.
The primary outreach method is the water based. We are eternally grateful to Mr. Timothy Lindt, who donated the boat that you saw out in the parking lot in memory of his daughter, Britteny Sage. She was killed on Lake Lewisville last year in a tragic accident that involved both alcohol and inappropriate boating behaviors. If the man had not been drinking and had taken a boater education class, who knows, it might have been avoided. And so, Tim has been generous enough to give us this boat and be very supportive of the program to help us hopefully prevent these in the future, or help make a difference.
This is an example. We actually were out on Lake Texoma last week. This is a picture from that event. We'll be passing out things. We are giving some promotional items away that have "Nobody's Waterproof" on them, have the boating safety messages, so they can keep hearing the message time and time again. These are some examples. I'll be happy to provide you with any of our giveaway materials if you'd like some.
We did launch the campaign last week in conjunction with National Safe Boating Week. We had our first press event on Lake Lewisville actually last Friday and got great news coverage. When we were out on Lake Texoma, we had people pointing at us saying, Oh, we heard about you; we read about you in the paper. It was great. We have had very, very positive response already, just based on that one event.
We're also really excited to introduce our new spokesperson, Kevin Fowler. If you've ever heard of him, he's a county music star, very popular with our target audience. That is actually why we went and asked him if he'd be interested in this. He really effectively reaches that target audience. He's agreed to take the message and he's got some wonderful posters, "This Wild Man Knows How to Play It Safe." He's going to take those and sign those at his concerts all summer long. So hopefully we'll have "Nobody's Waterproof" posters in every bedroom around college campuses this summer. He's also an avid hunter, avid fisherman, and boater, and he's very interested in working with Parks and Wildlife to promote hunting, boating, and water safety. So we're excited to have him on.
As a matter of fact, that's our lead in. I'd like for you to be the first people to hear our new PSA for "Nobody's Waterproof." It's never been shown in public before.
MS. BRADFORD: There you have it. Hopefully, you all will see that on the TV here shortly.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: All right.
MS. BRADFORD: So, great, I would now like to introduce our partners from LCRA. They developed this program last year and we were fortunate to partner with them on it this year, Mr. Jim Richardson and Jennifer Scharlach.
MR. RICHARDSON: Good morning.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Good morning.
MR. RICHARDSON: It's great to be here with you today. You know, we started off looking at some statistical information on Highland Lakes and we found a common trend that the 18 to 34-year-old males were the group that was at the greatest risk. When we started talking with Brandi and Al, they were looking at some of the statistics statewide, and found that that was true also in many areas within the state of Texas.
Also, we started talking with the National Safe Boating Council, and they looked at the Coast Guard statistics, and found that this is actually a national trend. And so, we kind of started something here in Texas that's spreading throughout the country. Jennifer is going to tell you a little bit about why this group is so difficult to reach.
Of course, both of our agencies have been in the business of promoting water safety for quite some time now, in trying to make Texas waterways safer. What we found out, as Brandi had mentioned, is that most folks who come to water safety events, fairs, and classes, are already pretty much safety conscious. So the folks that we need to hear the message the most are those that are least likely to attend those types of events. So that's the really unique aspect of this campaign, is taking the message out to the folks who need to hear it the most.
I work mainly behind the scenes, but Jennifer, she's out in front, interacting with the public throughout the summer. So I'm going to let Jennifer tell you a little bit about what we learned that first year out on the Highland Lakes. Jennifer?
MS. SCHARLACH: Well, I definitely don't want to repeat some of the things that have been said, but "Nobody's Waterproof" is a social-marketing campaign. That means, we're going to where they are. We don't expect them to come to us. It's a very innovative type of campaign that really reaches the peer audience from their own peers. So instead of somebody outside of their age group trying to tell them what's safe, it's somebody that's in their age group that is fitting the mold and kind of just more conversational. They're trying to reach them with trivia games and in a fun, entertaining way to where maybe they're learning something in a roundabout way where they don't really realize that they're learning something.
We have trained outreach staff that go out on the weekends, mainly the big holiday weekends, on the Highland Lakes, as well as this year all over the state of Texas. What they're doing is delivering safety messages in a fun, playful way that's really non-judgmental and
non-threatening. This target audience tends to be a little more media savvy but avoids the news ‑‑ one of the weekends that we were out there, I was handing out information ‑‑ and I was like, Hey, you guys, be careful ‑‑ to this whole group of guys that were in the target demographic. They said, Why? I was like, Well, we had three fatalities this weekend. They were like, Really? I was like, Have you guys not watched the news? They were like, No, we watch the news for the weather report and then we move on. And so, it was kind of one of those things that made us really realize that this is the type of approach that we really need to be hitting them with.
You know, they're less trusting of authority figures, such as law enforcement officials, as well as middle-aged bureaucrats kind of like Jim. So you know, we have to hit them in a roundabout way. We were concerned last year how the public was going to react. We were going to their party zone and trying to talk to them about safety messages. What we found out is it was successful. You know, the first time, I think they really thought we were trying to sell them something, but as the weeks went on, they were excited to see us. They would see us, they knew we had the fun stuff, and they were learning something. We had competitions going on between boats and really dealing with the people out there.
It definitely takes several years for the results to be seen on a program like this, but we saw immediate results kind of happening. There was one day that we went out, and there was a couple that was on a boat, and the guy was treading water, drinking a beer. We did some trivia games with him, and we came back around on our second tour of Devil's Cove, and he was still drinking a beer, but he was wearing a life jacket. His wife, or girlfriend, actually stopped us and said, Thank you so much. I've been trying to stick this to him for years and this is the first time I think he's ever listened. So those type of anecdotal instances are things that we're really looking for, to change behavior for people out there. Whether or not you condone drinking on lakes, the fact that he chose to put a life jacket on is a decision that probably prevented him from slipping quietly under the water never to resurface.
We did win three awards last year. We won the North American Boating Education Advancement Award, the Southern Region for the United States Boating Education Advancement Award, and the Texas Public Relations Association, their Silver Score for Community Outreach. All I can say is we're really looking forward to this year, to partnering with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and taking this statewide, and reaching more people, like the guy that was treading water with the beer, and hopefully saving more lives like his, and getting more people to wear life jackets.
MR. RICHARDSON: We are very excited to face this challenge together with Texas Parks and Wildlife and we want to thank you for this opportunity.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. Any comments or any discussion by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: I want to personally thank you all. This goes to show and it confirms how partnering is so effective. We all tend to take boating safety for granted to the extent ‑‑ it's easy nowadays to buy a boat and a lot of people are just not experienced. So this is a great cause. I want to congratulate Lydia Saldaña and her Communications Department who also has been helping in this project. Again, thank you all and congratulations on your award.
VOICE: Thank you for your support.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: All right. The next item is Committee Item Number 3, State Parks Interpretation and Exhibits Program, over to you, Ms. Angela Davis and Ms. Lupita Barrera.
MR. DABNEY: Chairman and Commissioners, I'm Walt Dabney, State Parks Director. I'm going to take just thirty seconds to introduce two of our folks that are going to give you a quick overview on our interpretation program. Interpretation and Education, we consider an absolute core function of Park Operations.
People are not just coming there for a recreation experience; they have the opportunity to learn. School children and visitors coming to parks have a chance to learn something about their history, the people and events and places that make us who we are, and secondly to learn something about the natural environment and certainly the habitat that they need to know as citizens as they grow up. Our staff there are expected to have basic skills. All of our personnel are intended to be interpreters and be able to answer questions of visitors, not send them to someone else and say that is their job.
We have a Focus Program. If you come to a park as a visitor, we expect to have a program, whether it's our brochures, our programs, our exhibits, our waysides, that are telling you the story about the park, both the history and that. We've got two of our bashful interpreters here today to share with you an overview of our Interpretive Program. Angela Davis is a Park Planner stationed here in Austin and has worked on some incredible projects. She's been intimately involved lately with the Casa Navarro restoration and upgrade in San Antonio. Lupita Barrera, from our Rockport Region 2 office, is the Regional Interpretive Specialist. So I think they've got a program for you.
MS. DAVIS: Thank you all. Like Walt said, I'm Angela Davis and I'm head of Interpretive Planning. My colleague and I, Lupita Barrera, are here to give you a quick overview of the Interpretation and Exhibits Branch.
MS. BARRERA: Good morning.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Good morning.
MS. BARRERA: Every day, in our professions, we act as guides, taking visitors from things that they can see, feel, touch, to ideas so that they can connect with those ideas. Put another way, we guide people from sight to insight. Please join us for the next eight minutes as Angela and I take you through a virtual tour of the Interpretation and Exhibits Branch.
MS. DAVIS: The I and E Branch exists to provide professional interpretation and exhibit services to all of our state parks and historic sites. We do this in support of this mission statement. It's a pretty big mission statement.
MS. BARRERA: Let's think about this for a minute. Park superintendents and site staff are being asked to do all sorts of things at their parks, personnel issues, budget balances, law enforcement appropriateness, wayside appropriateness, taking care of resources, learning all there is to know about resources, and on and on and on. In order to be successful, they ask for our support and that's why we are here, to support them. They also need to make friends, friends who are in love with resources just as much as we are.
MS. DAVIS: The main goal of interpretation is not education; it's inspiration. By that, we mean that we're trying to provide experiences that are going to help visitors go on a journey, from someone who comes in and experiences the park but maybe they don't really know anything about the natural world or they don't know anything about the heritage of Texas to someone who understands the value of those resources and therefore is willing to become a steward and an advocate for those resources.
Our branch is made up of five interdependent groups and working teams. We come from a variety of backgrounds. Some of us are trained as historians. Some of us are trained as educators. Some of us are artists and designers, but all of us are interpreters, and all of us are doing a job to speak for the natural and cultural worlds and the value of the resources that we protect.
MS. BARRERA: Together with field staff and regional staff, we work towards creating advocates that help our parks. The Regional Interpretive Specialists, and there are eight of us throughout the state, have a number of responsibilities. One of the things that we do is develop Interpretive Master Plans. These Interpretive Master Plans set the stage, tell us what are the stories that we want to tell at all of the different sites. You'll soon see that those stories are told in different ways, through waysides, through exhibits, personal presentations, and so forth.
The last IMP that I did, I facilitated this one at Franklin Mountains. At this planning session, we bring stakeholders from across the community. In this particular case, we had people from the city of El Paso, from the Chamber of Commerce, from the Sierra Club, we even had a person from right across the border come to talk to us, to be a part of this planning session. Since 2002, we have put together 49 different Interpretive Master Plans.
MS. DAVIS: So we plan to continue until each of our parks and historic sites has an Interpretive Master Plan because it really is the road map to all of the interpretive work we're going to do at a site. The Interpretive Plans, as Lupita was saying, one of the main parts about this process is that since we're trying to decide, Hey, what should we say about this park, what should we say about these resources, we don't just sit in a room and talk to each other. We bring in the community. We bring in the very people whose minds we are trying to change and talk to them about what's meaningful to them and find a way to connect the stories of a site to the community.
Of course, IMP's almost always call for personal interpretation. Personal interpretation is a fancy word for when you go to a park, a smiling human being meets you and they talk to you about what's special about that place. It may be through something formal like a guided tour or it may just be a friendly back and forth with the person who's checking you into your park site, but that's why we always say that every single person who works for State Parks is an interpreter because everyone is involved in personal interpretation.
MS. BARRERA: In the I and E Department here in Austin, we have the eight Regional Interpretative Specialists, we are certified trainers. We've been certified by a national association for interpretation. Therefore, we train staff throughout the state on how to ‑‑ there are two different trainings that we do. A Host training, which is really a customer service training, and we also do an Interpretive Guide training. The Host training is a two-day training. The Interpretive Guide training is a four-day, very, very intensive training.
MS. DAVIS: Both of those trainings are certified by the National Association for Interpretation, which is a national organization here in the U.S. I think it's the only one of its kind in the whole world. Our people here in Texas Parks and Wildlife are probably, by and large, more certified than anywhere else.
In addition to these trainings, people from the I and E Branch also conduct a one-day sort of fast tour of interpretation and interpretive techniques at the Managing Park Operations Seminar that we organize for Park Superintendents. There, we tell them about how interpretation can be a business tool, how you can use it in conjunction with marketing and law enforcement. We also talk about the care and feeding of interpretive collections or artifacts.
MS. BARRERA: In that interpretive plan, going back to it ‑‑ and we always go back to it to see what direction it has set for us ‑‑ for historic sites, it almost always tells us that we need to tell the story of that site through the artifacts. We have about 60,000 artifacts in our collection and it is curated by a team. That team also teaches across the state on how to care for these original artifacts.
MS. DAVIS: Once again, the strength of our IMPs is they call for a diversity approach because there's never one way to tell a site story. Sometimes we find that what a site needs are eye-catching interpretive signs. They can be on duty when site staff can't and also can be located right next to the resource so that we catch a person and deliver an interpretive message to them in that moment of wonder, where they're wondering, Wow, how did this canyon get here.
As you can see from some of these examples, we are now learning that one of our important roles is to provide bilingual signage to reach out to emerging and growing Latino communities in Texas. From our alligator sculpture, in his jaws, he's got some messages about being alligator-wise, you can tell that sometimes we're called upon to use interpretive techniques to deliver safety messages. For a few more examples of how we can use interpretive techniques instead of law enforcement techniques to try to encourage people to respect their own safety and to respect the needs of the natural and cultural world, sometimes exhibits are necessary. Internal exhibits and visitor centers can be really well done and provide visitors with some food for thought as they go out into a site.
Here, you can see some interpretive exhibits that our shop here in Austin created for Caddo Lake and for some other sites. We're really lucky to have a professional staff including designers, sculptors, carpenters, and artists who work to create really professional grade museum exhibits for our parks.
MS. BARRERA: Publications, we also, the site staff will come to us and say, Hey, I think we need some publications. Of course, this also comes out of the Interpretive Master Plan. These are just a small sampling of the kinds of publications that we do. There are trail maps. We do interpretive guides. We just completed one for the State Parks at the World Birding Center. We also do children's activity books.
Our Cultural Outreach Program, which is lead by our very own Texas Hall of Famer, Ken Pollard, has done a tremendous job of reaching out to people across the state. In 2005, the Cultural Outreach team encountered over 200,000 visitors. Of that number, 10,000 were school children. Outreach has tremendous positive impacts.
MS. DAVIS: Like we said at the beginning, the main job of interpretation is to reach people. So it's outreach. In its best, outreach results in relationships, and relationships result in support for our parks. Interpretive projects have been really successful in the past few years in getting support. Interpretive projects from our department in the last year have received grants from the National Endowment of Humanities, from Humanities Texas, from the Texas Historic Commission, and from a number of private non-profits, corporate donors, and private individuals who have become stewards. We're really happy when that happens because as we gain support for interpretive projects we can reach more people and touch more hearts and minds.
MS. BARRERA: So who are we getting to fall in love with our sites; people of all ages, from all backgrounds, school children of all ages and all backgrounds. In 2005, almost one million people received interpretive programs. Of that number, 70,000 were school children. Put in interpretive terminology, in terms that we can connect to, that gives us about 2,800 opportunities every day that we can talk about our natural and cultural world, 2,800 opportunities every day to make a difference. Thank you for supporting our programs.
MS. DAVIS: At this time, we'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. Any comments or discussion by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Well, I recognize the recharge one from Government Canyon. That's a great program. I mean, you're exactly right. You show thousands of school kids what, in most cases, their parents don't understand about the Edwards Aquifer. So hopefully they go home and explain it to their parents.
MS. BARRERA: And then remember.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: It's a great program that really makes a difference in the parks.
MR. COOK: We extend a special invitation to each of you. Sometime, we ought to just do it, planned or unplanned and walk over to the exhibit shop. I see Phil here. You know, a lot of those things you see in parks or even in our other locations, are built right here by our people from scratch. They start with a sack of powder and end up with this exhibit. It is ‑‑ they do an incredible job. I guess I thought all that stuff was made in Hollywood or something.
We make it right here and it is made to fit the specific purpose, the specific message of the site that we're working with. So they do a great job. I welcome you to go over to that shop, right over here in Building D, any time.
MS. BARRERA: We have samples of the Interpretive Master Plan if anybody would like to see them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Sure.
MS. BARRERA: While they look like they're really easy to put together, it takes a while.
MR. COOK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. It's amazing the talent that we have here. You know, that's a prime example, making all these exhibits and stuff. Thank you all for telling the story. Thank you very much.
MS. DAVIS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Committee Item Number 4, Angler Education Program, Ms. Ann Miller.
MS. MILLER: Good morning.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Good morning.
MS. MILLER: I'm Ann Miller. I work as Aquatic Education Coordinator. I've been with the Department about 10 years and in this position a little over six years. Before that, I was a middle school science teacher. I think that gives me some pretty good perspectives in my present position. I'm really glad to be here this morning. Thanks for the opportunity.
Our Angler Education Program is really built on the partnerships and the volunteers that we work with. We know that fishing is a gateway opportunity to get people in the out of doors. A lot of people remember from their childhood that fishing was what got them started being outdoors people. We realized that we needed a very comprehensive and a good Angler Education Program to get this going.
Our Angler Education Program is based on a best practices model. It's research-based. It's a national model. It outlines a plan for fishing education that involves hands-on learning stations, taught through a network of partners and volunteers. Of course to support those volunteers, we have to have the equipment and the training and support for them to carry the program forward. So that's really the basis of our whole program. The learning stations that I mentioned before, basic fishing skills are taught in a fun and interactive way, with kids and their parents rotating through the stations so they can learn how to cast safely, how to tie their hook on a line, even how to be ethical and responsible anglers, being able to understand the laws and so forth.
You might be wondering where we come up with all these volunteers and these partners. So I wanted to tell you a little bit about those volunteers and partners. Some of them are individual people that come to us and get interested in our program. We also have community, school, and fishing organizations contact us and want to be involved. And then, of course, we rely heavily on working with other TPWD divisions as well, Inland Fisheries, Coastal Fisheries, and so forth.
Our individual volunteers come to us from all walks of life. They're as varied as the state of Texas, bringing a multitude of talents, spirit, and ideas to the program. They are the heart and soul of our program, giving us more than 8,000 documented volunteer hours in FY '06, providing our match for the federal aid grant that supports our program. Our volunteers are our best ambassadors. Keeping up with their requests for materials and supplies is a big, but a very important part of our job.
Scout leaders have been using our program to a great extent. They find that our program is ready to go. They can use it to fulfill some of their badge requirements and do it in a very successful way. Recently, a Cadette Girl Scout Troop, they all became instructors in our Angler Education Program. They used our program as their Silver Service Award project, teaching younger scouts the Junior Angler program and sharing their passion for fishing.
We've really enjoyed working with some different fishing clubs. The Texas Bass Federation Nation has adopted our program and worked with us. We have a memorandum of agreement with them. They use our program to enhance and deepen and broaden their Casting Kids program and their Junior Bass Masters Club because they wanted to incorporate responsible angling and aquatic stewardship, more than just fishing competition, into their youth programs.
Some of our really most dedicated and passionate volunteers are in our fly fishing clubs, too. Fly fishing is really growing in popularity in the state of Texas. These fly fishing clubs use our fly fishing curriculum and our basic program to teach fishing, free classes open to the public and then that in turn helps them to recruit new members. So it's a real win-win for all of us.
We're really excited about our school programs that are becoming more and more popular. In PE classes at the elementary level and then at the high school level, Outdoor Adventure and Ag Science classes are using our Junior and Master or Basic and Advanced Fishing Program. Through the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the schools are also able to get some grants so that they can purchase enough equipment, over and above what we supply to them, to really make a comprehensive school program.
Then we have some really interesting community groups that are working with us. One in particular, the Junior Anglers and Hunters of America, is a Houston-based
non-profit organization that is also being supported by Houston Metro. Houston Metro has agreed to provide ponds and land surrounding those ponds at two light rail terminals in the heart of Houston. And then, they're going to be building some facilities at those terminals. Those facilities will provide ongoing access to the out of doors, to loaner equipment, and to training for inner city families with just a short ride on the light rail. So it's a brilliant plan and I think it has the potential to change many lives here in the inner city Houston.
The last three years, Angler Education has been building partnerships with state parks and with our Marketing team to capitalize on the free fishing in state parks initiative. We provide funding and training for fishing event coordinators at each of those parks who are hired on small contracts. With most of the events yet to come, data has already shown that many kids are catching their very first fish through these popular programs.
Coastal and Inland Fisheries have been working with us and it's a beautiful partnership. They use our program at Sea Center Texas and at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Both divisions help us in return by providing advance training for some of our volunteers who want to become more savvy about our water resources and what we do at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Inland Fisheries has also been able to help us out occasionally with special stockings at urban lakes to accommodate special fishing events for some of our partners. We are right now discussing ways in which Angler Education can support Inland's Neighborhood Fishing Program.
We have a wonderful project going on right now in which we're partnering with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. Our pilot project there is called, "Take Me Fishing, Houston." With financial support and expert guidance from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, our program is working through 12 community partners and schools in the Houston area to learn how best to recruit minority families into fishing.
So creating these partnerships is a big part of our job, but supporting all of these partners and volunteers with the building blocks of their programs is really a must. We have equipment and hands-on training tools in loaner trunks that are located across the state. We also provide literature and audiovisual aids that extend all the teaching possibilities in all the different situations that our partners are using the program. Tackle loaner equipment stationed at sites across the state, many of which are state parks by the way, mean that both volunteer instructors and the general public have access to equipment for fishing. Hopefully, with a little introduction to fishing, folks will purchase their own equipment later.
Because our partners and volunteers give so much to their communities, we try to offer them a variety of ways to volunteer and have fun, such as at Expo or at the annual Crab Trap Cleanup that is supported by Coastal Fisheries. They really enjoy that, believe it or not. Our partners and volunteers can learn more about Aquatic Ecosystems through special seminars supported by Coastal and Inland Fisheries. They can network with each other and have fun at our annual meeting.
We also encourage a few of our most active volunteers to take that next step to become Area Chiefs or we call those folks the ‑‑ I mean, they're Area Chiefs, but they are a trainer of other volunteers. So that's a way to extend our reach again, by having more people to train our volunteers.
So how do we know we're being successful? Well, as you can see from this data, our program is growing. Although this year's data is far from complete because summer is our busy season in Angler Education, we have added to the number of Area Chiefs at our recent annual meeting and we now have over 50 Area Chiefs who are going to be qualified to train other volunteers. Although it looks from this data that our volunteer hours decreased in '06, I want you to know that in actuality it was an increase, but this is based on our data for our federal aid report. They came and said that there was a different way that we needed to count those hours so we now are confined with that request of counting the hours a little differently, and that's why it looks like it's less, but it's not in reality.
There are some success stories. I just wanted to share two with you really quickly, just to give you kind of the breadth and depth of some things that are going on. It tells a little bit more than just statistics.
In El Paso, we had a retired military guy who represented the Ascarity Fishing Club. We got him linked up with an enthusiastic PE teacher that now they work together using our program to teach fishing in inner city El Paso at an impoundment called Ascarity Lake. This fiscal year the Ascarity Fishing Club has already introduced fishing to over 2,100 youth and adults.
On the other side of the state, in Katy ISD, a PE teacher at Griffin Elementary received a grant from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and implemented our Angler Education Program. The program is now at five elementary schools in the Katy School District, with administrators claiming that the program has helped them create relationships especially with the minority parents who often otherwise feel very uncomfortable talking with administrators. Now, high school in Katy has also started a fishing club, an after school fishing club, that they've got 50 kids signed up for this after school fishing club. Those kids are going to go help some of these elementary teachers extend and expand their fishing programs at the elementary level.
So what's next for Angler Education? Well, we're on a pretty good path. We feel like we've made a lot of headway these last couple of years and we'll of course continue to support and maintain relationships with our volunteers and our partners. That is our priority. We are working on a "Take Me Fishing" trailer. It's going to be an interpretive trailer that will increase our ability to take our message around the state. We'll also be working with more state parks, with more fishing event coordinators, and we look forward to working more with Inland and Coastal Fisheries to get families into the out of doors.
So thank you very much. I enjoyed being here.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Thank you. Any comments or discussion by the Commission?
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Ann, that's great work. I've got a question. The fishing without a license, fishing free in state parks, is that program really working from your perspective on Angler Education? Is that what people are communicating?
MS. MILLER: I really do think that it's working beautifully. I'm seeing so much interest in these events that we've got going on at the state parks. We started this initiative three years ago and have built on it every year. It's just growing and growing. We're getting more and more people involved. When people come to these state park events, many of them still don't understand, Oh, you mean, we can go here and fish without a license? Wow, that's fantastic. And so, we're really seeing a lot of enthusiasm, and the knowledge just keeps spreading.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I know it's probably hard to measure, but in our experience with the audit, we're learning to measure these things.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Yes.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Whenever we have these sort of discounts or anything for free, if there's a way to measure how many of those people actually become license holders that wouldn't otherwise. I mean, presumably, they get interested in fishing ‑‑
MS. MILLER: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ and decide they may want to fish somewhere other than a state park ‑‑
MS. MILLER: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: ‑‑ and then become license holders.
MS. MILLER: Right.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I wonder if there is any way.
MS. MILLER: What we can do ‑‑ well, right now, I don't have right now all of the steps in place, but we do have a database that we can set up because these folks are registering for our events. So we're getting the families to register. We do have that ability to make contact later on.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Maybe a survey. Any data would be helpful because I guarantee you, down the road, someone will ask the question, Why are you giving it away. We're paying other, other constituents are paying the fisheries and hatchery dollars to stock these areas. People are not contributing. If we just have some sort of survey, anything to show that this is adding to the whole.
MS. MILLER: Well, we do have the families register when they come to these events at the state parks. We could get back in touch with them. That is something that we would like to do, but that is something that we really have not put in place. It wouldn't take that much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Just add one question to the survey that you're already doing. That might help.
MS. MILLER: Well, we are doing surveys so we do know whether or not they intend to buy a license but whether or not they actually did buy a fishing license ‑‑
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Right.
MS. MILLER: ‑‑ is something that we need to come back later on and ask them.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I think it's a great program.
MS. MILLER: We could do that.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I don't have any doubt there's a net gain, that you're getting license holders that you wouldn't otherwise have.
MS. MILLER: I think so, too.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: They're participating in the future.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You need to measure it.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: That's right. It's really an investment in the future. I've always felt that if they can taste the experience, then they come back. The issue becomes ‑‑ how do you get them to taste that first experience?
MS. MILLER: Oh, absolutely.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Once they taste it, they say, Boy, that was great. I want to come back. That's where they get into the system, as you might say.
MS. MILLER: That is definitely our aim to do that. We can certainly follow up. We've got some data. We can go that extra step to get the data later on from them, do a survey, a follow-up survey.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Any other comments, Commission? You know, this is living proof of how we are so dependent on our partners and volunteers ‑‑
MS. MILLER: Oh, yes.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: ‑‑ for us to continue outreach and programs of this type. Again, thank you very much, unless somebody else has any comments.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's wonderful.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Okay. Thank you, Ms. Miller.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thanks, Ann.
MS. MILLER: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Great work.
COMMISSIONER RAMOS: This Committee has completed its business and we'll move on to the Regulations Committee.
COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you.
(Whereupon, at 11:20 a.m., the meeting was adjourned.)
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Outreach and Education Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 23, 2007
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 40, inclusive, are the true, accurate, and complete transcript prepared from the verbal recording made by electronic recording by Penny Bynum before the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
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Austin, Texas 78731