|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2006-05-22                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [TH]
May 22, 2006
'Life's Better Outside' for Texas Young People, Families
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to lure you and your kids away from TV, computers, gaming consoles, traffic, and the urban rat race and get you into soul-satisfying natural settings where you'll relax and have fun.
The agency has partnered with a top ad firm to launch a new public awareness effort called Life's Better Outside. The idea grew out of the Education and Outreach Advisory Committee appointed by TPW Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons. There's a lot of research showing this would be good for you and your kids. But like all great truths, the idea is self-evident in its simplicity.
"State parks and the great outdoors are healthy, fun, educational--these things are all true," said Lydia SaldaƱa TPWD communications director. "But research has also shown that the natural world is ideally conducive to provide something important that is missing for most modern families-- the opportunity for quality time spent together."
The new public awareness initiative owes its spark in large part to GSD&M, the Austin-based advertising firm that created "Don't Mess With Texas," the anti-litter public education campaign that set the gold standard for such efforts years ago. In this case, GSD&M donated its services pro bono, seeing a cause worth supporting.
"We served on the advisory committee looking at this problem, went back and worked on it and came up with the tagline "life's better outside," donating our creative time and talent," said David Rockwood, GSD&M community relations director. "We're a Texas-based company with Texas roots, so this stuff is part of our DNA, you might say. We're trying to evoke childhood memories and encourage people to get outdoors more."
The Life's Better Outside print materials show a video game controller hanging from a string before a tree-lined river in a state park. The headline reads "Do whatever it takes to get your kids outside." A smaller subhead reads "Keep score by counting time spent together." Print ads will run this summer in Texas Monthly and Texas Parks & Wildlife magazines.
Radio public service announcements titled "Home on the Couch" and "Click the Remote" impart a similar message with a different approach, making entertaining parodies of well-known children's songs. The PSAs shipped this month to more than 150 Texas radio stations that expressed interest in airing the spots. Donated billboards will also go up this month in many Texas cities, including major urban areas. The timing is intended to engage families as they plan summer vacation activities
Some careful thought went into Life's Better Outside.
GSD&M did phone interviews with families, visited an urban Austin youth center, and held a mini focus group session with parents of young children. They asked several urban families to visit state parks and keep journals about their experiences. They also reviewed secondary research already done by national organizations, including the Outdoor Industry Association of America, Roper RSW, and the University of Michigan.
A key finding was that free time is fading away, with unstructured leisure time for families declining, not just among parents but, incredibly, among our youngest Americans. Among 3-to-12 year olds, discretionary time is down 12 percent and play time down 16 percent in the past two decades, while participation in structured hobbies such as organized sports is up 150 percent.
Not surprisingly, they also found parents wish they had more opportunities for things like uninterrupted family time, sleeping and relaxing, and getting away from home for fun and vacations.
In spite of these dreams, GSD&M found that modern families are creatures of the indoors for the most part, spending 50-to-80 percent of their waking hours outside work or school doing indoor things like video games and computer surfing.
"We've become way too captivated by appliances" said Robert, a parent from Houston.
"Inside it gets easy to be in your own little world by yourself" said Norah of Austin.
Some parents told researchers that time in the outdoors can make memories that stick with the family forever, the kinds of experiences they felt could not be had elsewhere. Some could vividly recount childhood stories of fishing or going on camping trips in state parks with family.
So what's stopping them?
GSD&M found that unfamiliarity breeds uncertainty. Parents who were less familiar with the outdoors worried about things like "What do we wear?" and "Do we need to bring a lot of gear?" and "Will the kids get bored?" They also thought that the closest state parks were three to five hours away. (In fact, every major urban area in Texas has a state park within an hours drive.)
Life's Better Outside aims to make it easier and more inviting for families to find new adventures and break from the everyday routine, enabling them to discover a depth of family connections that can be difficult to make indoors.
The lifesbetteroutside.org Web site is one way to make it easy for families who are less experienced enjoying the outdoors. The site offers links to Texas state parks, fishing, paddling, and maps showing state parks within 60 miles of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
Toyota has signed as a corporate sponsor of the Life's Better Outside initiative, providing funding for paid advertising to reach urban parents in Texas. The department is seeking additional sponsors. For more information, contact Darcy Bontempo at darcy.bontempo@tpwd.texas.gov or at (512) 389-4574.
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
May 22, 2006
Public Meetings Slated for Spotted Seatrout Management in South Texas
BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Coastal Fisheries biologists will host three public meetings in June to discuss the Lower Laguna Madre spotted seatrout fishery and to receive public input on the topic.
Meetings are slated for:
--June 5, Laguna Madre Learning Center, Hwy. 100, Port Isabel
--June 7, Chamber of Commerce Pavilion, 101 East Port Drive, Port Mansfield
--June 8, Marine Military Academy Cadet Activity Center, 320 Iwo Jima Blvd., Harlingen
All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are open to anyone interested in spotted seatrout management.
A coast-wide spotted seatrout stock assessment completed by TPWD in April delivered mostly good news about the ever-popular game fish. Stocks overall are doing extremely well in Texas; however, in the Lower Laguna Madre, sampling data and models show a clear downward trend in both the size and numbers of spotted seatrout.
The bay still boasts catch rates as high as or higher than any other bays on the Texas coast.
"This is not a fishery in crisis," said Randy Blankinship, TPWD ecosystem leader for the Lower Laguna Madre. "There is no danger of spotted seatrout stocks collapsing; it's more a question of reversing these trends and getting a high quality fishery back to the very high quality fishery we have historically known."
Coastal Fisheries biologists said several options are under consideration. They include changes in bag and size limits and the possibility of regional management measures that could address the unique spotted seatrout trends observed in the Lower Laguna Madre.
For more information about the meetings, call the TPWD Brownsville Field Station at (956) 350-4490.
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[ Note: This item is more than 11 years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
May 22, 2006
Boating Season Kicks-Off With Good News, Bad News
AUSTIN, Texas -- National Safe Boating Week kicked-off May 19 with a mixed message from the previous year. Overall, boating accidents, injuries and fatalities continued to decrease; however, with about half of the accidents involving alcohol and 85 percent of boating fatalities recovered not wearing life jackets, many of the incidents were preventable.
There are approximately 620,000 registered boats in Texas, ranking it fifth in the country. In 2005, there were 204 reported boating accidents, 100 injuries and 30 fatalities. That's down from 258 accidents, 222 injuries and 69 fatalities in 1997.
"While the numbers look like an improvement, that's still 30 lives that were lost, and many of those could have been saved by simply wearing a life jacket and operating responsibly. " said Maj. Alfonso Campos, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Chief of Marine Enforcement.
Many boaters who reflexively latch their seatbelts and wouldn't think of driving drunk in their cars or trucks apply a different set of standards on the water, Campos said.
"When you're in a boat, that life jacket or personal flotation device can save your life just like your seat belt," he said. "And operating a motorboat or personal watercraft under the influence of alcohol is just as dangerous as -- or even more dangerous than -- driving your car drunk. We want people to have a good time on the water, but wear the life jacket and operate responsibly."
The Boating While Intoxicated law is strictly enforced by TPWD game wardens and other law enforcement agencies. A person arrested for BWI may be jailed for up to 180 days, be fined as much as $2,000 or both. A law that took effect in 2001 includes possible suspension of an automobile driver's license for failing to submit to alcohol testing when suspected of operating a vessel while intoxicated.
The blood-alcohol level for legal intoxication while boating is .08 percent, the same as for drivers on land.
"It's that time of year when the lakes will be extremely busy and we want people to enjoy the Texas lakes," Campos said. "But it can also be dangerous. Prepare yourself, and use some common sense so you don't become a statistic. That's all we're asking."
Editors: Game wardens will be conducting media ride-alongs all summer. For more information, contact your local game warden office. Also, TPWD boater education courses are available in a traditional classroom setting, online and through a home video course. Call (800) 792-1112 for more details.
Boating Safety Tips
--Always wear a life jacket.
--Avoid alcohol or designate a vessel operator.
--Be especially careful on personal watercrafts.
--Children younger than age 13 must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway.
--Enroll in a boater education class.
--Don't overload your boat.
--Operate at a safe speed.
--Always have a passenger serve as a lookout in addition to the operator.
--Watch out for low water areas or submerged objects.
Always Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or Life Jacket
--Most boating fatality victims were found (recovered) NOT wearing a PFD.
--Always carry extra PFDs in both adult and child sizes.
--Children younger than 13 years old must wear a PFD while underway.
Avoid Alcohol
--The probability of being killed in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.
--Operating a boat under the influence is just as dangerous as driving a car after you have been drinking.
--Boating while intoxicated (BWI) is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible Driver's License suspension.
Enroll in a Boater Education Course -- Regardless of Age
--It's a good idea for the whole family to enroll in a boater education course.
--A majority (52 percent) vessels involved in boating accidents are operated by persons 26-50 years of age.
--For information about classroom, home video and on-line course options, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site at http://tpwd.texas.gov/ or call (800) 792-1112.
Be Especially Careful On Personal Watercraft (PWC)
--PWC operators and passengers must wear a life jacket.
--Before you borrow or rent a PWC, take the time to learn how to operate the vessel and familiarize yourself with the rules of the road.
--Obey the 50-foot rule! Maintain a 50-foot distance from other PWCs, vessels, persons, shore, stationary platform or other object unless operating at headway (idle) speed.
Operate at a Safe Speed
--Although there are no numerical speed limits on the water, citations may be issued for excessive speed or reckless operation. Use common sense, and operate at a safe speed at all times -- especially in crowded areas.
--Excessive speed is a rate of speed greater than is reasonable or prudent without regard for conditions and hazards or greater than will permit a person to bring the boat to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.
Any other questions can be directed to (512) 389-4627.
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