Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Education Committee

May 26, 2004

Commission 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 May, 2004, there came on to be heard matters under the regulatory authority of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of Texas, in the Commission Hearing Room of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex, to wit:

APPEARANCES:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:

THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT:

Robert L. Cook, Executive Director, and other personnel of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

P R O C E E D I N G S

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The first order of business is the approval of Committee minutes, which have been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?

COMMISSIONER HOLT: So moved.

COMMISSIONER RAMOS: Second.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Motion by Commission Holt. Second by Commissioner Ramos. Any opposed?

(No response.)

COMMISSIONER HENRY: All in favor?

(Chorus of ayes.)

COMMISSIONER HENRY: All right. The motion carries. Mr. Cook, the Chairman's charges, please.

MR. COOK: Thank you, sir. A couple of items. Progress continues to be made on our Sheldon Lake project. Fund-raising efforts are underway. We believe that we will know next month whether a Houston endowment grant will be forthcoming.

A communications strategy for the project has been developed that will raise the project's profile in Houston and the immediate area. A news media kit will be distributed in the next few days.

Certainly, we would want to give a special thanks to Commissioner Henry for a lot of work and a lot of effort and a lot of personal involvement and hard work on this project. It's going to be a great project. The education outreach advisory committee continues its work on fine-tuning some of the conservation messages for our communications, education, interpretation and outreach efforts.

Austin advertising agency GSD&M is currently working on developing these messages on a pro bono basis. The messages will be taken to the education outreach advisory committee for their input next month. Thank you, sir.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you, Mr. Cook. Item number two, state park interpretation program.

Phil Hewitt, please make your presentation.

MR. DABNEY: Mr. Chairman, Walt Dabney, State Park Director. I was just going to introduce our presentation today, which will be a short briefing on our interpretive program. And then Phil Hewitt, our chief of interpretation, will give you a PowerPoint briefing on our interpretive program.

Parks, we see, have three primary purposes. Certainly, as a recreation destination for about 14 million visits a year. But secondly, these places are supposed to be well taken care of examples of our best natural resources, examples of the different ecosystems in Texas. And the second part of that certainly is great examples of our special places in our history. The places where important people lived, or events occurred and that sort of thing.

And thirdly, the third purpose of these parks, and not one necessarily more important than the other, is they need to be great opportunities to educate the people of Texas about their history and about the natural world, using the park as truly an outdoor classroom, a real place to go and do these kinds of things. The last five years, we have been trying to put a major effort back into what we think is a core mission of parks, and that is this educational effort, both focused at the visitor that is coming to the park and what do we want that visitor to know when they leave that park.

What are the important things at each specific site for them to understand something about. And secondly, for the children and the students of Texas to come to use those parks as an outdoor classroom. And again, that needs to be tied directly into the required subjects that these kids have to have.

With that, Phil Hewitt is going to do an overview of this initiative for us, which we are extremely proud of. This program was pretty much up on blocks five years ago. One of the things that we'll never do again is to suggest that when budgets get tight, that this is a program that is elective and not a core mission. Because it is not just a recreation destination. Education is a critical piece. So with that, Phil.

MR. HEWITT: Thank you, Walt. Thank you all for listening to us today. I am Phil Hewitt, for the record. I am the director of interpretation and exhibits branch. It is a 27-person field support branch that is headquartered here in Austin, although most of the people are not here in Austin.

The charts you see up there is the organizational chart. I'll just briefly touch on each of the items. Most of you, I think, are familiar with the Buffalo Soldiers program. Ken Pollard has done that program for years and years and is extraordinarily good at it. About 100,000 contacts a year.

We have a four-person planning staff that provides professional and technical expertise for all the planning, all the operational efforts of interpretation from exhibits to waysides to repairs. The curatorial program is headquartered over at Met Center, and I spoke with the director over there this morning, Joanne Avant. Currently, we take care of, access and catalogue 74,391 items, ranging in size from the Battleship Texas, which we call one item, all the way down to pots and pans at Fort McKavett.

COMMISSIONER HOLT: It's not at Met Center.

MR. HEWITT: No, it is not at Met Center, I hasten to add. But Joanne is pretty clear about exactly how many items we have. The exhibit shop is over in Building D. It has a staff of seven. We produce world-class exhibits ranging from conceptualization to design to fabrication, installation and maintenance.

The most recent one that I think that you may have been aware of, I hope you get an opportunity to go see it, is the one we just finished at Caddo Lake. The regional interpretive specialist program is the newest program in the group.

There is a shot of the interpretive crew. There are eight of them. Each is headquartered at a park region, and they are supervised by Dr. Julie Martensen, the lady on the right. The core of the regional interpretive specialist program, and I am not going to take you through this process because it's terribly convoluted, but is the interpretive master planning process.

The core of that process is this. Out of it comes the definition of our themes, interpretive themes and stories for our state parks. Each of those interpretive master plans is a five-year rolling evaluation plan and it includes, and is basically designed to provide a road map for all of our interpretive efforts in all of the state parks and historic sites, 120 of them.

The interpretive master plan, or IMP, is key because it does the following things. First of all, it involves the external local stakeholders in the entire process, thus giving them ownership, involvement and support for the interpretive master plan, and for our parks and historic sites. It is critical to the development of useful, realistic master plans, public use plans, operational plans, management and staffing plans.

Without a road map provided by the IMP, you don't know where you are going, so anything you do, is sort of up for grabs and we are not going to be doing that any longer. The interpretive master plan focuses marketing efforts, both departmentally as well as locally, on a particular audience developments and then finally, next to finally, it guides the development of interpretive programs, of which Walt mentions the two primary ones.

One is the public programming for the 14 million visitors we get each year in state parks and historic sites. Those range from formal programs to informal programs such as campfire talks, birdwatching tours and the like.

And second, it guides the formal and informal parks as classrooms programs that we do for public education for schools. Many of these are TEKS based. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills based. And we are currently developing that as a process and as an integral part of the interpretive master plan.

Finally, the IMP is a requirement for an interpretive brochure. Last year, the regional interpretive specialist program, which has only been operational for two years, produced ten interpretive brochures. This year, there will be ten more.

It doesn't make very much sense to have an interpretive master plan if you don't have people to implement it. And we have two training programs that we have been doing for approximately 18 months. The first is the interpretive guide program, that those people are designed or trained to produce formal and informal interpretive programs.

It is a weeklong training session that is designed for people who have interpretation as part of their job function. We have at this date trained 68 of those over the last 18 months.

The second is a program called certified interpretive host, or CIH, program. It is a two-day program that we prototyped. Julie and her crew put it together. We prototyped it, and we have now done it four times. It is designed for people who are not interpretive staff. These are the folks who clean the bathrooms, cut the grass, sign you up when you come in the front door, pick up the garbage.

The other thing they do is these are the people who meet all 14 million visitors we have each year. The purpose of the CIH program is to make sure that every time there is a public contact between one of our staff, whether it is paid or unpaid, it is an interpretive contact.

Last line there is the submission of the Interpretation and Exhibits branch, and I will be happy to answer any questions that you might have. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

MR. COOK: Commissioners, I can't let the opportunity pass without bragging on this fellow and his staff. I guess I used to think, back in the days when I wandered around in the field, that these kinds of exhibits were created by somebody in Hollywood. These folks right here created them. Right over there, in Building D, in our shop. And they are incredible.

And this approach that Phil and Walt and the guys are taking here, of this regional interpretive staff and certified regional interpretive guides and just like Phil said. The contacts are made, often times not by some expert at interpretation, but by our guys out there at the park. So they need to understand that basic mission. And I really think we are on a really good track.

And I appreciate Phil's and Walt's, and Dan Sholly I saw walk in a while ago, their recognition of that contact, and the value of everybody in that park basically being able to deliver those key messages and have an understanding of them. Good program. Great product and I hope that you have the opportunity to go see some of those, and make some of those contacts.

MR. HEWITT: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: I commend you on your mission statement. I particularly liked the last three words.

MR. HEWITT: Yes, sir. That's what we are all about. Lifelong stewardship, both of the natural and cultural world, but also of themselves.

MR. DABNEY: A couple of other points, sir, on this. Is that we consider all employees in the parks an interpreter and we don't want a visitor to walk up to anybody in uniform and ask them about something in the park and them say, yes, that is these people over there.

So the host training program is really to equip them, because more than likely, as Phil pointed out, the interpreter is not who the visitor is going to find. They are going to find the host, a volunteer or one of our custodial folks, our park rangers out there.

Another thing that we are really trying to do is to have a focused program, going from park to park and determining the absolute themes and stories you are going to tell. Without this focus, you have a program that is predicated on what the individual interpreter's interests are. And it may absolutely have nothing to do with the most important pieces of that story.

So we want to focus what the story is that we want visitors to know, and then every map, brochure, wayside sign, exhibit that we do, or program that we present is focused on every opportunity to give that visitor the chance to learn about that place deliberately. And so, it's an exciting program and we consider it, again, a core part of our mission and it is going to get better and better, and we think it already is.

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Thank you. Any other questions by the Commission members? I would like to very briefly report, as did Mr. Cook that the Sheldon campaign is underway. You have heard several mentions of Houston endowment over a period of time. We visited with them on a number of occasions, with a member of their trustees as well on separate occasions.

This is simply because Houston Endowment is by far the largest of the community foundations, private foundations in Houston. And when you go to other foundations, it is not unusual for them to ask you whether or not you have received any grant from Houston Endowment and if so, how much. You get the Good Housekeeping Seal from them.

I was shocked at the television the other day, and looking at our news report and saw that Ann Hamilton, who is the chief administrative officer for Houston Endowment had been attacked in her home. Fortunately, she was not hurt seriously.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: When was that?

COMMISSIONER HENRY: Just this past Friday, I believe. She was due to come out to make a special trip out to Sheldon for a final review before getting the matter written up and taking it to their board at the July meeting. We are still hoping that that can and will happen. Ann has been very supportive.

Some of you may not know that Houston Endowment has already put over a half million dollars into the Sheldon environmental learning project. And Ann is convinced that given the presentations and the support that we have received from various trustees, we will get a substantial grant from them again. So keep your fingers crossed.

If any of you know Ann, you may want to drop her a line or something and wish her well. With that, Mr. Chairman, no action is required by the Commission on any of these items, and I would like to turn this matter back to you. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER FITZSIMONS: Thank you, Vice Chairman Henry. Nice work, and thank you for all that hard work at Sheldon.

(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded.)

 

C E R T I F I C A T E

MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission

Outreach Committee

LOCATION: Austin, Texas

DATE: May 26, 2004

I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 14, 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.

6/08/04
(Transcriber) (Date)
On the Record Reporting, Inc.
3307 Northland, Suite 315
Austin, Texas 78731


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