Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Eduction Committee
March 26, 2008Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 26th day of March, 2008, 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:
- Margaret Martin, Boerne, Texas, Committee Chairperson
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- J. Robert Brown, El Paso, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, M.D., Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- John D. Parker, Lufkin, Texas
THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:
- Carter P. Smith, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
P R O C E E D I N G S
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Do I have to bang it, to —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: — just so I feel good.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Can I take one of these with me?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: The first order of business is the approval of the previous committee meeting minutes which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: So move.
COMMISSIONER BROWN: I'll second.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Motion by Commissioner Friedkin, seconded by Commissioner Brown. I'd like to begin with the Land and Water Plan Update, Mr. Smith?
MR. SMITH: Yes. Thank you, and I guess the first order of business is to let everybody know that Lydia Saldaña is going to serve as our kind of designated staff liaison to this committee, so I'm looking forward to her working with you in that capacity.
Just a couple of things. We have a litany of education and outreach programs going on throughout the Agency, Lydia's going to give a synopsis here of that in just a moment, then you're going to hear more specifically about a couple of them, very, very successful programs, working to help improve both the participation in the out of doors but also the quality of participation in the out of doors. And so, excited for you all to have a chance to talk about that, Commissioner.
We just completed a project with the Texas Field Archery Association for a statewide archery tournament, for kids, Burnie Kessner, who's our coordinator has really done a magnificent job with that program. I think we've reached almost 30,000 kids in 100 schools across the state, so, very successful and we're looking forward to that growing in the future.
A trend that we're seeing really across the nation is this issue of lapsed purchasers of fishing licenses, on average, you know, only about — in any given year, about 15 percent of the anglers purchase a fishing license, and so we have a grant from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to do a direct mail piece to target lapsed anglers and see if we can enhance the purchase of those fishing licenses in the future. So, should be an interesting marketing and direct mail project for us.
I think you all have heard about our, "Nobody's Waterproof" campaign. This is a wonderful boating outreach and boating safety campaign that we have launched with LCRA, taking that statewide, great cooperation between our communications and our law enforcement divisions to help implement that program. Again, very, very successful in reaching boaters around the State to help encourage them on all matters of boater safety. That program's going to be recognized with two national awards, it's going to receive the National Drowning Prevention Association Community Lifesaver Award that was presented recently to the Department; and then we have the National Water Safety Congress Award of Merit that is going to be presented to the Department, and again law enforcement and our communications team will be there to receive that honor on behalf of the Department.
So, great program and we're really excited about it. So, thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Can I ask you, Mr. Smith, will all the information be by direct mail or will there be any email as well?
MR. SMITH: Lydia, would you come and address that? Yes, thank you.
MS. SALDAÑA: For the record, I'm Lydia Saldaña. This is a direct mail effort; it's part of a national effort that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation is doing, and they're providing a matching grant to each state. So it's a direct mail effort, and it's going to be overlaid with the national media campaign.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you. Any discussion?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: We'll move to the next item, which is myself and Lydia. I just want to briefly say a few words. When I first came on, which hasn't been that long now, just a few months, as Commissioner, I thought I had an idea of what Texas Parks and Wildlife was about. And as I have been diving into this Outreach and Education, I realize that I didn't really have a clue.
And I don't mind saying so, it's been a tremendous learning, there is vast amounts of projects and programs that reach every age, every ability, every inability, every disadvantaged, advantaged — it's been incredible. It's been an incredible learning process, it's been fun; I feel like I've been like a child in a candy store, or a child at Coastal Expo, I don't know.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: But for the Commissioners that don't quite realize all the behind the scenes small projects that the projects that are being taken on, it's momentous, and for our new Commissioner, I think you'll find it interesting, as well. So with this, I'll go ahead and turn it over to Lydia.
MS. SALDAÑA: Thank you, Commissioner Martin. Again for the record, I'm Lydia Saldaña, Communications Division Director. What I'm going to attempt to cover in the next eight to ten minutes is a very top line overview, what Carter calls the view from 30,000 feet, of our Department Education and Outreach efforts. There's a lot of them.
Now, during this committee meeting, every other Commission meeting, we'll be briefing you on a few key programs each time. So you're going to get an in-depth briefing on a couple of key programs each time. What I'm going to attempt to do here is just to give you a feel for the scope of the efforts across all divisions.
Now, some people might ask the question, and the question has actually been asked in the past, Why should Texas Parks and Wildlife spend time and resources on education and outreach? Well, the bottom line is, it really is critical for conservation. We operate in a situation where the public owns the wildlife, they make the laws, they fund our agency, they conserve wildlife on private land, so really an involved and informed public is absolutely critical to us achieving our mission.
We believe that caring about resources in Texas begins with the citizenry that becomes engaged and involved, and it's our attempt to involve them, by connecting to them through our sites and our many, many different programs.
Now, as we head into another Sunset review, I think it's important to note that our authority to conduct education and outreach was reaffirmed as a result of the last Sunset bill that was passed in 2001. This is actually a piece of the Parks and Wildlife Code, and it states that, "Employees of the Department, through education and outreach, shall expand the wise use and conservation-efficient wildlife, and increase participation in outdoor recreation."
It also states that it authorizes us to use funds from all of our different sources in order to conduct these activities, and we do. And it requires us to manage these activities so that they are consistent with the Department mission, not duplicative, are cost-effective and can be measured.
Now, all the programs that we do in all of the different divisions, are based on research that's been conducted over the years, that tells us what needs to happen to get people involved and engaged in the outdoors. There's certain factors that come into play, and they're kind of intuitive, but just to kind of review there, for folks to get involved in adopting outdoor activities, they have to have a positive initial experience. We try to do that through many of our different programs.
They have to have access to equipment, to a mentor, to the resource. And they have to have support from family, friends, and the community. So we keep all of these things in mind for all of our programs that we do.
Now in terms of our strategy, what our strategy is, in our Education and Outreach efforts, is to create stewards. We would like our end goal, which may be a lofty goal, but it's for every Texan to feel like a steward; that they are a steward of the resource.
It's a pyramid process. We start with awareness, interest, and appreciation; some of the programs that would be in that level would be for example, Expo I think is the perfect example of that. That's where we're introducing people, we're making them aware, and we hope that they will gain an appreciation for what we do.
Knowledge and skills is an area, for example, if people get interested in it, they make want to take a Becoming an Outdoors Woman workshop. Go to an Angler Ed class to learn a little bit more and hone their skills. Then it moves to a citizen service situation, and this really is the backbone of many of our programs. Our programs run on volunteers, they run on partners, Angler Education, Hunter Education, our Master Naturalist Program, at this level of stewardship, folks are getting involved in sharing it.
And then finally, again a person would become a steward. And of course, our Lone Star Land Steward Program is probably the best example of really exemplifying that stewardship ethic in Texas. We think of this as a continuum, and we offer programs at all different levels. So there's going to be programs that hit each of these areas throughout all the divisions at the different levels; we think that's important, and again it's a continuum that people move across.
Now with that foundation of why we do it and how we do it, let's switch gears a little bit and talk about who does it. Simple answer to that is, we all do. It really is a part of everybody's job. The game wardens are a good example. And I kind of leaned over and whispered in Pete's ear here a few minutes ago and found out that education outreach is part of the performance plan of every game warden.
The game wardens are out there, hundreds of them are out there. Now, sometimes they do some education with a citation; but most often —
MS. SALDAÑA: — they are out there doing education and outreach activities in schools and community groups; they're a key part of our education and outreach force. State park rangers, fish and wildlife biologists; we have a cadre of urban biologists; educators; interpreters both in our state park staff and our wildlife staff; artists, writers, producers, a lot of those are in my staff; and then volunteers. We're all part of the effort to get that message out there and across to Texans.
Now, all of our sites play a role as well, and certainly state parks are places to play and they're outdoor classrooms as well. And it's an opportunity for us to teach folks about the importance of conservation, and their role in that. Park interpreters play a key role — that's a picture of Wanda I think before she got promoted, doing her thing, there.
MS. OLSZEWSKI: Yes.
MS. SALDAÑA: It was before and after, actually. And the park interpretive program, it really strengthens that connection by helping the visitors to our parks understand the role, and understand their role, in conservation. So it's a critical role; I know that's a key focus for Walt. I know that some of our additional positions that we've gotten this year from the Legislature will help us expand that program, it's a very critical part of what we do.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Can I make a comment?
MS. SALDAÑA: Sure.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Can we go back to that slide, I mean, look at the looks on the faces of those children. So, just mesmerized.
MS. Saldaña: Yes, it's a cool deal. I did want to spend a few seconds talking about one particular state park, and that's Sheldon Lake. Some of you all may be aware of the Sheldon Lake Environmental Learning Center, outside of Houston. Its focus is on reaching urban kids near Houston, near one of the largest urban areas.
And this is just an incredible project; if you have a chance to go through it, I encourage you to do that. Last year they had 4,000 school kids from Houston go through that facility and learn about what we do and why we do it.
Also in State Parks a wonderful community outreach program is the Texas Buffalo Soldiers. This program reaches out and tells the story of Buffalo Soldiers and connects kids, particularly minority kids, African-American kids, to the heritage of Buffalo Soldiers and to our natural resources.
And just by the way, the Legislature has designated July as Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month. This is a great program, really is. Also in the State Parks Division is the Community Outdoor Outreach Program, this is a program out of Tim Hogsett's branch, that offers competitive grants, and it puts resources in the hands of community groups, mainly under-served groups that we don't normally serve, and gets them involved in outdoor recreation.
This is a — we get a really good bang for our buck out of that program. Now, our wildlife management areas are also outdoor classrooms; we do field days, we host school groups, we provide teacher training. I would point out that the Angling Wildlife Management Area, I believe it was last year, was it Mike? But we just opened up a new conservation center there.
So it's going to give us some more opportunity, on our wildlife management areas, to deliver these messages.
Now, our urban biologists, they meet Texans where they are; and where they are is in the cities. Eighty percent of our population lives in five cities in Texas, and we now have nine urban biologists that are stationed in all major metropolitan areas. And they deliver more than 400 presentations and workshops, and other outreach opportunities, exactly where the people are.
So this is a real effective thing that we do, to get that message out in urban areas. Also in Wildlife is the Texas Master Naturalist Program; we recruit citizen volunteers to become outreach proponents. There are now chapters all over the state; we've got over 4,000 volunteers, we've reached one million Texans with this program, phenomenally successful, and it has become a national model that's being duplicated in other states.
Switching gears a little bit to the fishery side of the house, certainly fish hatcheries are also another site for conservation education and outreach; the Texas Freshwater Fishery Center on the inland side, and Sea Center Texas on the coastal side, each hosts about 60,000 people a year at either facility. We do fishing events, hatchery tours, education programs, and I would point out, and you're going to hear a little bit about a new conservation education center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center tomorrow. But that's again, it's just increasing our emphasis on educational programs in our hatcheries.
Now, Commissioner Martin mentioned Coastal Expo, this is the mini version of our Expo, that we do here at headquarters with the focus on coastal ecosystems; we do several events each year, and we reach thousands of children each year through this program. It's a good program.
The Neighborhood Fishing Program provides also in Inland Fisheries, provides family fishing opportunities very close to home, we're doing regular stockings of fishing holes that are close to where people live. Again, we want people to have a positive initial experience, we've got a lot of people that are trying fishing for the very first time, and thanks to these stocking efforts, they're catching a fish on the first visit. So that's a real positive experience, and it's being duplicated.
This year, we're expanding that program, thanks to the donation from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. We're going to be expanding that program to six additional lakes, we're going to be stepping up a marketing effort, so we're really going to take that program to a new level this year.
Now, I did want to spend a couple of slides on the stuff in my shop, so bear with me here. Hunter and Boater Education of course are key, legislatively mandated programs, we've reached 30,000 kids in hunter education, 10,000 in boater education each year, so these are key ways that we get that conservation message out.
Carter mentioned the Archery in Schools program, that's been a phenomenally successful pilot, and we're looking at expanding that into even more schools.
You met Ernie earlier. I know most of you know him; some of you it is a first introduction. Ernie heads the branch in the Communications Division that their sole focus is on urban outreach, outreach in urban areas. And Ernie's got a mantra, and it's partnership. And we really are focusing all our efforts in partnering with community organizations, and we're training them to deliver our programs and our projects, and extending our reach even further.
We have two outreach specialists, one in Houston, one in Dallas, and that's their sole focus, is developing these partnerships and relationships and growing them as well.
Angler Education you're going to hear from Ann Miller here in just a few minutes. Our Angler Education Program trains adult volunteers. Again we train 18,000 youth, 8,000 adults in safe and responsible fishing activities, we do literally hundreds of events around the state; we've got a great partnership with State Parks and the Free Fishing Program, and also with Inland Fisheries with the Neighborhood Fishing Program as well. So we get out there, and get a pole in their hands and teach them how to do it.
Project WILD is our signature conservation education program. This program is sanctioned by the Texas Education Agency, that's very important; we train hundreds of teachers and other volunteers who deliver this program; conservation, education messages into schools and other settings; a very successful program as well.
Ernie mentioned Parrie Haynes Ranch so I won't go into detail there; I do want to mention though, you know, when he mentioned the two and a half million dollars' worth of facilities that we have there as a result of our partnership with Camp Coca-Cola. The Camp Coca-Cola, which is now called the C-5 Summer Camp Program, I did want to mention that for a moment because I think it's a wonderful program; it's a multi-year program that kids get involved in, very — there's a great deal of minorities that are involved, which I think is good. We need to be doing a better job of reaching that audience.
And these kids stay in this camp over time; most of these kids have never been exposed to outdoor recreation. So it's really a great partnership in a number of different ways, and a really, really great program.
The Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program that some of you may have heard about, it was designed to break down barriers to getting women involved. We've been doing that program since 1992; it's become a model for a new program, the Texas Outdoor Family Program, that you'll hear about in a moment from Ashley Mathews.
And of course Expo. That is our signature and premier education and outreach event. I guess if I had to describe it in a short one sentence I would say, "Well, we put up a tent, well, actually lots of tents, and we have a show." And for those of you who've been there I think you know what an incredible event it is, I mean, it's just a wonderful event, really, really is a signature event for us.
Since 1992 we've reached more than half a million people with that event. So mark your calendars for the first weekend of October.
I want to end by talking about something I'm really excited about for this coming year. And that is getting the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine in every school in Texas. Thanks to a grant from Exxon-Mobil, starting in September 2008 we're going to be developing a new educational section in our magazine that will have a companion web presence; and we're going to be providing it to every fourth grade science and social studies teachers, as well as having copies placed in every school library in Texas.
We'd been talking about this for years. It's something that I've wanted to do for years. There hasn't been a way to do it up until now, and again Exxon-Mobil has come through to help us do that. I hope that this whirlwind tour didn't make you dizzy; it's a lot to cover, there's a lot more that I didn't mention but I wanted to give you just an idea of the breadth and scope of the programs across all divisions.
Again you will have briefings at each of these Education and Outreach Committee meetings that will provide more in-depth information, and we look forward to continuing that process of educating you all. So, any questions, or Commissioner Martin do you have any additional comments?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Just, thank you —
MS. SALDAÑA: I can take a breath now?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: — that's right. Thank you for all the time that you've spent with me on this, too.
MS. SALDAÑA: Okay.
COMMISSIONER HIXON: I'll just ask that, it's not that you need anything else to do and you may already do it, but I'm curious about the Project WILD and some of these others that are actually working with the teachers already. Do you have a curriculum in place, or is that going to be maybe part of this getting the magazine into the schools, and —
MS. SALDAÑA: No, there is — the Project WILD is a national program. It happens to be based in Texas, so there's a national curriculum. Now, what we've done in recent years, under Nancy Herron's leadership, is develop Texas-based curriculum that's, in working with our wildlife division and fisheries division, to customize it and localize it even further. So there's a national curriculum that we're starting to target as well, to be a little more local, so folks are learning about what's in their backyard, as well.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Measurement? I mean, how do you measure these programs whether they're — for their effectiveness? And I know sometimes that's not real easy, but how do you — are you trying to do that, Lydia?
MS. SALDAÑA: Well, there are different measurement evaluation strategies for each program. As part of our Sunset process last time, we went through a process that we basically chartered; we have charters for each of our programs. And each of those have an evaluation component. So it varies. For a program for example like Becoming an Outdoors Woman that is a relatively small number of participants, we're actually able to track them over time.
Expo, we do a survey that we're now, we don't do it every year now; we've done it enough that we think we can do it, on a not an annual basis, to get a good feeling of how that effect has been on folks, so each program has a different evaluation strategy.
Hunter Education, for example, I mean, we've seen the number of accidents go down for the past, you know, 30 years that we've had the program, and that would be an example of a measure there. So it varies by program, but we don't go into a program without having some sort of mechanism to try to figure out, were we successful or not.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay, good. And —
MS. SALDAÑA: I wish we could do more.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — yes. Exxon-Mobil, I know that's an interest of theirs, in how we're going to measure this going forward —
MS. SALDAÑA: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: — effectiveness and all that.
MS. SALDAÑA: Yes, we're working on all that. It's very complex, and especially over time, and especially to single out any one particular program, as I kind of said up at the beginning the number of factors that play a role; so it's hard to get on any one thing, If you do X, Y will happen. We believe it's a combination of all of those things.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Lydia, there's still a lot of room for us to expand the public-private relationships with these programs too, isn't there?
MS. SALDAÑA: I think so. I think there is. There's — I think again partnerships is the mantra that we all live by, you know, and I know that I'm not unique in this. We all do the best that we can with the resources that we have. And it's a constant challenge of how can we work smarter. And the model of partnering with other, you know, organizations and community groups is a good example of that, where we train them, we get them involved and engaged in our stuff, and then they go on, deliver the program and we can move on to developing a relationship with a new organization. So that's sort of the way that we're doing things now.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Can you elaborate a little bit on your relationship with Exxon Mobil, in that regard?
MS. SALDAÑA: What do you mean exactly?
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Well, when they — you say that they are assisting in getting these magazines put into the schools —
MS. SALDAÑA: Well, what — they basically funded a grant. They funded a grant that will allow us to pay for the additional copies, that will allow us to put the section together, that will allow us to physically get it out, so.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Okay.
MS. SALDAÑA: They've had some input on the front end, they won't be reviewing content or anything like that. It's going to be a, you know, stand-alone educational section, and again I'm just thrilled about it.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: Good. Yes?
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Will the particular magazines that are put out have a special, or specific focus in there, to try to acquaint these — I guess they're going to be new readers, with options and take advantage of the fact that this is their first look —
MS. SALDAÑA: Yes. And a lot of, it's going to be a special section that can be pulled out, that will also be up on our website, and a lot of the attention is going to be to drive folks to be aware of what those resources are. So it's an educational — we're going to be looking at kind of what they're looking at, at the schools, we want to tie it back to lesson plans, we had a focus group of teachers that were involved, for example, involved in it; we want the section to be something that's going to be used in the schools, and we're really working toward that.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I wanted to make a brief comment on the Coastal Expo. And you talk about partnerships, you know, there was partnerships there with the city and the county, and I think there were over 100 volunteers, I think they averaged about 2,000 children on Friday, about another 2,000 children on Saturday. I mean, Thursday and Friday. And it was just a very much of a hands on for the children to get involved in seeing the fish, touching the different — the little, the crabs that were in there, and the snails, and so it was a lot of excitement and it was very joyous to hear, you know, 2,000 children screaming with glee as they were getting dirty and getting their hands wet, and really hands on.
And there was one particular event that I found interesting; I had no idea that we dove into so many different areas, but it was a blind birding, and it was a women who is technically, legally blind who headed it up, and she has taken this on as her mission, and has partnered up with the folks there. And how she did it, she — you had a partner that could see, and so those that were able, you were able to see, I was blindfolded, and she led it through. So it's interesting to, as taking it on strictly through other senses, and having your partner describe, you know, what bird was singing, and the color, and where it was. And it was a whole new experience, and I think it's wonderful that we offer these great projects to disadvantaged individuals.
And I wanted to share that because it was really quite humbling, I mean, to see how everybody worked, and I believe they said there were over 100 high school volunteers, which brings in more young people to carry on this legacy. So just wanted to make a brief mention on that. Thank you.
MS. SALDAÑA: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Continuing on to Committee Item Number 3, SEA Camp, presented by Mr. Paul Hammerschmidt.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Chairman, Commissioners, Mr. Smith, my name is Paul Hammerschmidt for the record. One of the things that was really brought up with Lydia's talk was the issue of partnership. And the — my presentation today is about an outreach and education program where we and our partners have been very successful for many years.
It's called SEA Camp, or Summer Experience in Aransas. This takes place in Rockport, Texas, and it's been popular since 1998. SEA Camp and their partners and their volunteers help provide a broad educational and experiential opportunity for many Aransas County children, a/k/a Fun in Learning.
Here, our partners, the Maritime Museum is the lead organization, they organize it all; the City of Rockport, Goose Island State Park, Fulton Mansion, and the Coastal Fisheries Division.
In 2007, there were 137 children from first through fifth grade that went to SEA Camp. And the SEA Camp season is divided into five one-week sessions, each for children of different ages: first and second, third and fourth, and finally fifth graders. Each day's activity run from 9:00 a.m. to noon, and throughout the week, the kids are exposed to a broad range of activities, and knowledge including maritime history, local history, coastal living, conservation and marine environment.
The last two days are the wet days; they're the third and fifth graders, and they get to get wet and dirty out there. Now, we'll pace through a few of these here. Prior to the field activities, everyone gets a chance to get oriented and they get a lot of safety training including boater ed, and that, what to wear, what not to wear.
And the fun, excuse me, the learning begins when paddling with kayaks, learning how to fish — let me — let the slides catch up with me here; learning how to fish, and using some gears that they've never used before, like a cast net. We do a dry run on this with our own OKAD things and the kids have a blast with it.
Then they get to tour the bay and learn firsthand about the habitats. And then the getting dirty and wet part is to work in the habitat itself, and again did I mention getting dirty and wet.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: We'll let this pace through; there are so many activities, the kids work together with our biologists and volunteers, they get to go out on their own, practice their cast netting, work together. And try to figure out that blasted net.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, which end's up.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: And then those who don't want to go wading, we have touch tanks where they can touch the critters, get up close and friendly with them, and again they do bag seines.
Now, this is a real short presentation, and we would like to cordially invite all of you to participate in the 2008 SEA Camp, and you know, we might even find you a t-shirt or something.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: What are the dates?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Let's see. It starts the middle of June and goes through the middle of July. And don't forget, don't bring flip flops.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, yes.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: I do a lot of outreach in the Agency, and actually one of my hats is Outreach Coordinator for the Coastal Fisheries Division, and I've always subscribed to the philosophy expressed in a tag line by Bill Cosby, if you all remember the cartoon, Fat Albert? And if you'll allow me to paraphrase it, you all have fun now, but watch out; you may learn something.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Paul.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any other discussion?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you.
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Will you email those dates to all the Commissioners. Paul?
MR. HAMMERSCHMIDT: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: We'll continue on to Committee Item Number 4, Texas Outdoor Family Program, Ms. Ashley Mathews.
MS. MATHEWS: Good morning, Commissioners, Mr. Smith. My name is Ashley Mathews, and I'm a training specialist within the Urban Outdoor Programs within the Communications Division.
It is my responsibility to manage the Outdoor Woman and the Texas Outdoor Family programs. It's the latter of these that I'd like to speak to you about today. For years, our Department has provided programs to educate and expose children to the outdoors. But many of these programs may have been missing a really crucial component: that is, the inclusion of influential adults and parents.
Recently the Department has begun to offer the Texas Outdoor Family Program, which consists of hands on educational workshops, where together families learn a variety of outdoor skills.
Before I tell you about how we deliver the program, I'd like to tell you a little bit more about its history. The Texas Outdoor Family Program is modeled after the Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program which the Department has had success with for nearly 15 years. That model wishes to eliminate participation barriers for participants. In this instance, we're specifically addressing participation barriers of lack of experience, as well as self-confidence. And in the children-specific instance, support from families.
Essentially, our workshops provide an introduction to overnight camping, and families learn the basic skills necessary to replicate that experience for themselves in the future. Since the fall of 2006, we've offered six workshops across the state, and just this spring we'll offer an additional six events. As you can see, we're starting to roll along and have great success.
We provide the program through two different delivery systems. First, partnerships with municipal park and recreation departments; and our second delivery system is through state parks. Our goal in partnering with local park and recreation departments is to effectively duplicate ourselves. After expressing an interest and willingness to work with the Department, cities involve themselves in a three-year mentoring process where they are provided key resources to help host events.
We provide them the Texas Outdoor Family Workshop Manual, which provides specific event management advice as well as curriculum for activities. We provide them promotional assistance, we loan them equipment, and we provide them access to train volunteer instructors to hold the classes.
After this three years, the city should be able to provide these workshops on their own without direct involvement from the Department, so that I can go on and partner with other cities and expand the program.
The second delivery system we've recently embarked on is through State Parks. We're extremely excited about this situation. For many, many years, Walt Dabney has supported the idea of providing families an opportunity to get enthused about the outdoors through camping. And now it appears we have the right mix of interest, resources and public interest to make that happen.
For this fall, Parks plans to offer ten outdoor family workshops, in four different state parks. And based on that experience and the support of sponsors, we hope to roll out that program through State Parks in the next two years. Current research indicates our success in providing these programs to families who are not already involved and engaged in the outdoors, can be very positive on several fronts.
We would be reconnecting children and nature, and help ensure consistent and repetitive exposure by encouraging family support. Additionally, we'll be recruiting new outdoor enthusiasts, and we'll be setting a firm foundation for a conservation ethic amongst our future stewards.
To evaluate these impacts, procedures are already in place to survey participants prior to and after their visit to a workshop. We ask specific questions about their level of experience before attending, and how they feel their actions and opinions may have changed after participation.
The next step, with the assistance of university experts, is to survey families one to two years out, to see how their behavior has been impacted. Participation — excuse me, participants in Texas Outdoor Family Workshops are similar to Becoming an Outdoor Woman attendees. Typically, both are inexperienced or novice outdoor users, and have expressed enough interest in the outdoors that they've paid to play.
We believe we will see similar positive results in our families. These being, increased park use and license sales; the adoption of outdoor recreational hobbies; recognition of Texas Parks and Wildlife and its mission; and positive changes in opinions about conservation, and traditional management methods such as hunting.
To conclude, I'd like to share with you a video news release that will be sent out to news stations across the state in April to help us promote the spring and fall events, and then I'll be happy to take any questions you may have.
MS. MATHEWS: Any questions?
MS. MATHEWS: All right. Thank you for your time.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you. Committee Item Number 5, Fishing and State Parks Initiative, Ms. Ann Miller.
MS. MILLER: Good morning, Mr. Smith and Commissioners. I'm Ann Miller. I'm an aquatic education coordinator. I work in the Communications Division in the Urban Outdoor Program. So this project that I'd like to tell you about is our Free Fishing Events in Texas State
Parks. It is a partnership program between the State Park Division and Angler Education, Communications Division.
The project was begun about four years ago; trying to meet the public need for a place to teach kids how to fish. We were receiving calls pretty much weekly, in my office from parents who wanted a place to take their kids to teach them how to fish.
We have a lot of volunteers across the state, who are involved in teaching specific groups how to fish, their own Scout troops, their own church groups, their own school groups; but for just a public place to learn how to fish, there really weren't very many opportunities. So that coupled with the fact that parents could take their kids to a state park and fish without a license seemed to be the perfect marriage of a way to put a program together.
So in 2005, we only had four parks that piloted this project. Now, we have 14 parks in FY '08, who are involved in teaching kids how to fish, and we have over 60 events that have been planned so far; and these are parks all the way from Eisenhower up on the Red River, down to Galveston Island, Palmetto State Park, so we're really trying to do it across the state.
The goals of this fishing program are of course to teach those basic fishing skills to people who have — and to recruit new anglers. We want to introduce them to the fact that there's great fishing in our state parks, and they don't have to have the license, we still find a lot of people not knowing that they don't have to have a license to fish in state parks.
And of course we want to increase stewardship of park and water resources, and the perception among the public that they do have a responsibility and can effect some good change in our water and park resources.
In order to determine if we were being successful with these programs in reaching our goals, we do survey both youth and adults, at each of these events. Last year our youth surveys showed us that 98 youth caught their very first fish at one of these programs; 62 percent of the kids had never fished before, or who had fished fewer than five times.
Thirty-nine percent of the adults had very little or no fishing experience; 82 percent of the adults gained new information at the event; and 43 percent of the adults had not been to that park before. So we are definitely meeting those goals that we had laid out in advance.
So this program is funded through the Angler Education Program, which gets our money from a Sport Fish and Restoration Act grant. So we pay for contract fishing event coordinators, and we train them to go to each park and put on these events.
The events, the training includes hands on stations that we train them in putting on these events where the kids go from station to station, learning how to tie on their hook, learning how to set up their basic tackle, and learning about the fish, and the habitat, and the ways they can, through their actions, have positive impacts on that habitat.
So it is a pretty comprehensive program, we — I think it was really revealing that the parents said that they were learning something at each of these events right along with the kids.
We also help with equipment and supplies, educational materials, giveaways, things that the kids and parents can take home to help extend that fishing interest and knowledge.
On the State Parks side, it's very important that the state parks recruit and supervise those fishing event coordinators at each of their sites. And they provide the onsite support at each event, so that at each event there are park people there, they're welcoming the folks to the event, and they are making sure that the facilities right there work well for each event.
But in addition to Parks and our Angler Ed Fishing Event Coordinators, the community support is vital. So at these events, we often have some donated goods and services from different businesses in the local community, the fishing event coordinators and the park staff go together to call on some of these businesses and to solicit some support. The marketing program has also created some sponsorship packages, so if a community, business wants to support in a little bit more substantial way, there is a method for them to contribute. And we are tracking those contributions very carefully.
We've had some wonderful coverage in newspapers, radio and local TV, if I may just a minute I'd like to quote at a recent event in Huntsville, the Huntsville newspaper on March 16th had a very nice article about an event that they had just recently. And I'd like to quote this:
"Some of the parents themselves had never fished before, and were as delighted as their children to be learning how to fish. 'We caught a fish, and we've never caught a fish before,' said excited Mom, Sherry Roberts, from The Woodlands. Roberts, with her husband and twin sons, were camping at the park and planned to come back next month to participate again. 'I've never been fishing, and I never wanted to fish; but I like this,' said Roberts. Roberts' son Evan caught his first fish with Mom's help. She was probably more excited than he was."
MS. MILLER: So, again we've got over 60 events, I'd love to have some of you or each of you come to one of the events; they are all on our website, so there's information about them there. I'd love for you to come, and we'll be having basic fishing classes; we'll have junior angler classes, and some derbies. So some of these kids want to actually compete and win prizes, and we do have prizes; we would like to give away fishing equipment at each of these events, just to encourage those kids to come back and go fishing. And then there are going to be some advanced fishing classes; Eisenhower State Park is having its Texoma On the Fly; this is their third fly fishing event. For the last three years, it's been growing every time, and that will be in June. It would be a wonderful event, a lot of people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area attend that event.
As you can see, at the beginning some kids are a little bit squeamish about some of those aspects of fishing, this little girl ended up catching her first fish, and you can see by the quote there from this little child that she's a convert already. Thank you very much, and I'll be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, that's great. Great program.
MS. MILLER: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You just keep expanding it.
MS. MILLER: Yes, we would like to. We would want to expand it.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You have some momentum.
MS. MILLER: Good. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you.
MS. MILLER: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any further comments, discussions?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: No, thank you Margaret. I think that was great, as the overview.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So, I guess — it helped me, throughout the last few weeks, as trying to get a handle on this. You know, if I can take just two minutes or so. I wanted to pass along a compliment, and this will go to Colonel Pete Flores.
Last week, Commissioner Falcon and I were in Zapata for a Legislative visit, basically showcasing the partnership of the game wardens with the Homeland Security, with the Border Patrol, sheriffs' departments, DPS; did I miss anybody? Pretty much. And after one of the presentations, I had several individuals come up to me from other agencies, Border Patrol, DPS, the sheriff that — from Zapata that we'll be hearing from later on today or tomorrow.
Basically really complimenting our game wardens and our law enforcement, and they said, our game wardens held a certain professionalism, a certain ethics, integrity that was noticeable. And they shined everywhere they went, and they were very complimentary of their skills, and just how they're handling the situation down in South Texas. So I wanted to pass that on to you, Colonel because it's always nice when you have individuals from other agencies come and compliment your law enforcement and your game wardens. So I wanted to pass that on to you, that many people from other agencies are looking at what you're doing. So thank you. I wanted to share that with the rest of the Commissioners.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes, thank you, Margaret. Congratulations, Pete.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: So, and at that I conclude the Outreach and Education Committee, and — I'll pass this on to —
COMMISSIONER HOLT: What is our plan, here, Carter?
MR. SMITH: We're going to go back to Commissioner Bivins —
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Commissioner Bivins.
MR. SMITH: — and let him open up Executive Session.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Okay.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you, Margaret.
(Whereupon, at 12:05 p.m., the meeting was concluded.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Education Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: March 26, 2008
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 39, 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.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731