Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach and Education Committee
May 27, 2009Commission Hearing Room
Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters Complex
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, TX 78744
BE IT REMEMBERED, that heretofore on the 27th day of May, 2009, 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 Chairman
- Peter M. Holt, San Antonio, Texas, Chairman
- Mark E. Bivins, Amarillo, Texas
- Ralph H. Duggins, Fort Worth, Texas
- Antonio Falcon, MD, Rio Grande City, Texas
- T. Dan Friedkin, Houston, Texas, Vice Chairman
- Karen J. Hixon, San Antonio, Texas
- S. Reed Morian, 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: Thank you, Chairman Holt. The first order of business is the approval of the minutes from the previous committee meeting, which have already been distributed. Is there a motion for approval?
COMMISSIONER FALCON: So moved.
COMMISSIONER FRIEDKIN: Second.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Moved by Commissioner Falcon, seconded by Commissioner Friedkin. All in favor?
(A chorus of ayes.)
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: All opposed?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Hearing none, the motion carries. Thank you. As you can see, I put my pirate ancestry behind me, and didn't say that word, that I just can't get right. Chairman, Committee Item Number 1, Update on the Parks and Wildlife Progress in Implementing the TPWD Land and Water Resource Conservation and Recreation Plan. Mr. Smith.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Madam Chair. Just in the interest of time, I just want to mention one thing. And I just want to acknowledge, there is some phenomenal education and outreach going on inside the Agency. And you are going to hear some of these programs in just a minute. But it really is extraordinary, and one of the most gratifying things to see from my position in terms of the work that our team is doing around the state to engage people of all ages in the out of doors. It is just remarkable.
With that said, the one comment that I want to make is we obviously had a very difficult decision that we had to make in terms of suspending Expo for the next two years. And I know that all of you have been apprised of the reasons and rationale behind that, in terms of declining sponsorships, and the fact that we ultimately just got to a point where it would have been untenable to put on an Expo that literally and figurative was going to be half of its former self, with the understanding and expectation that visitation was not going to be reduced. And I don't think that was fair, not only to our constituents and customers and partners that would have come to that, also it wasn't fair to our staff to ask them to be in that position, to put on something that we knew we could do more of, we could do better, but in the absence of sufficient funding, we just weren't in a position to do.
So we have made the decision to suspend Expo, as all of you know, for the next two years. We are going to take this time and come back to the Commission with a set of recommendations about our overall agency wide outreach, statewide, and how we look at Expo-like events here in Austin, or around the state. Ernie Gammage is here in the audience. And I just, I want to recognize Ernie specifically for his leadership with Expo over the years. He has just done a phenomenal job.
MR. SMITH: And Ernie and his team will help make those recommendations on that kind of strategic approach, as we go forward. And we look forward to coming back and reporting those back to you, Madam Chair. So with that, I will turn it back over to you. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Committee Item Number 2, Take Me Fishing, with regard to Houston fishing, on this one.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: There you go.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Ms. Nancy Herron and Mr. Kevin Cunningham. Please make your presentation.
MS. HERRON: Well, Good afternoon. I am Nancy Herron, and I am the Outdoor Learning Programs manager. And I have with me today Kevin Cunningham, our applied education specialist for the Houston area. And I guess, Keiko Davidson, who is the principal of Hutsell Elementary School in Katy. Together, we would like to give you a brief highlight of a multi-divisional project that we have done with our partners, and Take Me Fishing, Houston. TPWD staff worked with RBFF, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to design this project based on research and best practices. And basically, we wanted to learn how to better introduce families into long term fishing, especially Hispanic families. What resulted however, was more than we imagined. And with that, I would like to turn it over to Kevin.
MR. CUNNINGHAM: Good afternoon. My name is Kevin Cunningham, and I am the Aquatic Education Specialist for the Greater Houston Area. The Take Me Fishing, Houston pilot project was a partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and several schools and community groups. The goal of the project was to increase fishing participation by Hispanic families, historically low user beneficiary group of outdoor recreation.
We chose partners. Those goals also included reaching families to strengthen their own programs. One of our partners, Hutsell Elementary, has been a great partner, and the school has successfully used our fishing education program with remarkable success, both physically and academically. Here to tell you more about it is Keiko Davidson, Principal of Hutsell Elementary. As Keiko speaks, we will have a slide show going on the on the monitors here. It won't be on the laptops. And as I understand it, Keiko has a handout for all of you. And I don't believe there is a quiz at the end.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: With this group, we might be in trouble.
MS. DAVIDSON: Good afternoon. My name is Keiko Davidson. I am the Principal of Hutsell Elementary in Katy ISD. I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today about our Take Me Fishing program and how it has benefitted the Hutsell Elementary School community. I have been at Hutsell Elementary since 1993, serving first as the Assistant Principal until February 2001, and as Campus Principal for the past eight years. Hutsell Elementary is one of 31 elementary schools in the Katy Independent School District. It was established in 1978 and is only one of two elementary schools located in the City of Katy. Prior to 1978, there were only three elementary schools in Katy ISD.
Our current student enrollment is 785 students in pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade. 275 of these students are enrolled in bilingual classes. Hutsell Elementary was designated as the United States Department of Educational National Blue Ribbon School in 2001, and was rated as a recognized campus from 2000 to 2003. Due to the rapid growth of our district, our school boundaries have undergone re-zoning, and our campus demographics have changed significantly in the past eight years.
During that time, our school's population has changed in ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. The number of economically disadvantaged students at Hutsell Elementary has risen from 36 percent in 2000 to 66 percent in 2008. During the same time span, the percentage of limited English speaking students has increased from 24 percent to 44 percent. In 2000-2001, white students comprised approximately 58 percent of the student body. By 2007, 2008, that number dropped by nearly 30 percent. Currently, our student body is 62 percent Hispanic, 31 percent white and 6 percent African-American.
Hutsell Elementary has been a school-wide Title I campus since 2000. Our school accountability rating fell from recognized to the lower academically acceptable rating from 2003 to 2007, due to an overall decline in scores for at-risk students on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. In 2005, our science scores were below the acceptable passing standard projected for 2006. Only 34 percent of our economically disadvantaged 5th graders and 31 percent of our Hispanic 5th graders met the passing standard for the science TAKS. Of course, this was alarming and I knew that action would need to be taken to turn this around.
I have always been confident that we would be able to meet the educational needs of our current students by studying our data, collaborating, and employing research-based best practices. The implementation of innovative programs has also been important in overcoming obstacles, and has helped our students perform in exceptional levels. The Take Me Fishing, Houston program is one such example.
As luck would have it, it was about three years ago this month that we were looking to rebuild our physical education department. Brenda Shaver and Lynn Malpitano [phonetic] had been part of the fishing program at Golbow Elementary in Katy, which was started by Mark Fobian. Becky Messina [phonetic], a PE teacher who transferred from Bear Creek Elementary was also interested in starting a fishing program at Hutsell. They were as passionate about the prospect, as Hutsell Elementary veteran PE teacher Karen Thornton. After all, Hutsell is located less than half a mile from Mary Jo Peckham Park and less than 2.5 miles from the Katy ISD Outdoor Learning Center. At the Outdoor Learning Center, there is a manmade duck pond which encompasses 1.2 acres. Inhabitants of the pond include largemouth bass, channel, bullhead and blue catfish, various sunfish, turtles, non-venomous water snakes, domestic and wild waterfowl, egrets, herons, various aquatic insects, and arthropods. And Take Me Fishing is targeted at schools with our demographics.
To the PE teachers, it made perfect sense. Fishing made perfect sense. So with nothing more than a great idea, and a tremendous amount of energy, these dedicated teachers began to cast a wide net to attract the interest of our faculty and staff. The PE teachers recruited 18 of our teachers, including our librarian, Title I teacher, our art teacher, music teacher, two special education teachers, the diagnostician, the campus-based instructional specialist, instructional technology facilitator, a kindergarten teacher and a 3rd grade teacher.
First, we needed a hook. I decided to distinguish these brave volunteers by providing them with a specially commissioned Take Me Fishing, Houston Hutsell Team shirt. Teachers love spirit shirts, especially because they are required in order to wear jeans on designated days. And so we chose a special kind of bait. We collaborated with our friend Becky Humes from Custom Made Designs and created a bright tangerine polo shirt with a Take Me Fishing, Houston logo and a very happy fish with sparkly rhinestone bubbles and the slogan; Follow This School. By the way, our school colors are royal blue and white.
Becky advised us to make this shirt stand out to attract notice at our schools. Volunteers were presented with this custom-embroidered shirt as a gift, and encouraged to wear it to publicize our event. This quickly became the most coveted Hutsell spirit shirt ever. When volunteers were asked how they got their shirt, they told them about the Angler Education Certification and about the Take Me Fishing, Houston event. The shirt wasn't for sale. Many staff members decided to join us based on the positive buzz generated by this one simple shirt.
Our PE teachers taught a fishing unit using the materials from our Angler Education Certification training to our 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students in February and March of 2007. Lessons included angler safety, casting, and the use of equipment, knot tying and the various types of bait. Students participated in a backyard bass, indoor fishing tournament. Students loved the lessons and were encouraged to bring back their permission slips to attend the Take Me Fishing, Houston events. The PE teachers and staff publicized the fishing event every day on morning announcements. Students who returned their permission slips had their names placed in a jar for prize drawings. Then we began to reel in support from the community.
Our team of volunteers sought donations from various businesses and local sponsors. Vince Doucette, the Katy Rotary Club, local businessman and rancher Herman Meyer, Academy, and the Katy Bassmasters got involved. With the support of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Mark Fobian and the Katy ISD Anglers, we held our very first fishing event in Mary Jo Peckham Park. It was a huge success with 77 participants, despite the rain that nearly flooded the Katy area that morning.
In 2007, we cast an even larger net, and were awarded a Future Fishermen Foundation Grant to establish our own fishing program. The grant provided training and funds to purchase our own fishing equipment. Ten more faculty and staff members took the Angler Education Certification course. The Mayor of Katy and Board of Trustees members were invited to attend our event on March 29, 2008. The Mayor presented a Certificate of Recognition to Hutsell Elementary for receiving the Future Fishermen Foundation $3,500 Fish Ed Grant, the only school in Texas to receive this award in 2007. And we had 200 more participants in the second year.
We took our very first fourth grade fishing field trip to the Outdoor Learning Center the Friday before TAKS exams were to be administered. The objective of our field trip was to take what students had learned in school and apply it in a real life experience. Students were taught the Texas Parks and Wildlife curriculum during physical education classes, to certify them as Junior Anglers. They learned about fish identification, habitats, casting, knot tying, lures, live bait, fishing ethics and rules, and environmental concerns. Once they became certified, they were ready to go. And once they arrived at the Outdoor Learning Center, students were quickly divided into two groups. One group fished and participated in bug picking down at the pond. They learned how to bait their own hooks. They caught fish. Then they weighed and they measured them. And they kissed and released the fish back into the pond. A fish data record was filled out with the weight and length of fish and bait used, and the weather conditions.
At the bug-picking stations, students collected bugs, used magnifying glasses, identification charts to identify what they had caught. And then the second group of students rotated through the following stations. At the kayak station, students learned about water safety, different types of life jackets and how to put a life jacket on. They learned how to get in and out of a kayak safely and practiced paddling. At the Dutch Oven cooking stations, students learned how to make apple cobbler and watch it cook over an open fire and tasted the delicious results. At the Gyotaku print station, all students made their own fish print t-shirt as well as a fish rubbing. At the catfish anatomy and tasting stations, students were able to observe the dissection of a catfish and see the anatomy inside. Afterwards, students enjoyed tasting delicious fried catfish. The Outdoor Learning Center was completely vacant on April 25th probably because no other school thought it could spare a day of instruction for a field trip the day before the big state assessment. This was one of the most memorable events we ever had undertaken. The students did not want to leave at 2:00 in the afternoon. Many students were heard to say that this was the best field trip that they had ever taken. The students had a fun day of learning on a perfect spring day in the great outdoors. There might have been those who thought we had lost a day of instruction but when the TAKS scores came back and 90 percent of the 4th graders passed the reading TAKS, and 92 percent of them passed the math TAKS it became obvious to many that nothing was lost and much was gained.
In 2007 only 78 percent of our 5th graders passed the science TAKS. Last year, 93 percent of our 5th graders passed the science TAKS, and 48 percent of those students earned, demonstrated mastery by earning a commended performance rating. And that means they made a nearly perfect score. August 1, 2009, we learned that based on our students' performance on TAKS overall, Hutsell Elementary was rated by TEA as an exemplary campus, completely bypassing the previously coveted recognized rating. Determined to prove that the benefits of fishing were great and to establish sustainability for the future, we have endeavored to do several things. And it has been another banner year for our Take Me Fishing event, and our 4th grade fishing field trip. This year we had 283 participants at our Take Me Fishing event. And this year at our 4th grade fishing field trip, we secured 14 district subs and had teachers, PE teachers from four different campuses teaching our boys and girls at the Outdoor Learning Center. We certified another 26 faculty and staff members, bringing our total to 44 Certified Angler Educators at Hutsell Elementary. This represents 45 percent of our total full time staff, who have actively supported fishing and outdoor education at Hutsell.
The entire specialty and 4th grade teams are certified. Eleven of the 16 members of the special education team are certified. During PVAS summit and conference this year, I asked non-angler education certified teachers and staff to consider joining us as part of their professional development for the next semester. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Board of Trustee members Chris Crockett and Rebecca Fox are on board to take the Angler Education Certification training in 2009. In every interview held at Hutsell Elementary, prospective candidates are asked to describe their unique qualifications and certifications such as American Red Cross, First Aid, CPR and use of the AED training, Crisis Prevention and Intervention Certification and English as a Second Language Teaching Endorsement. They are also asked to describe their fishing experience, and to explain how they would actively support our Take Me Fishing, Houston initiative.
Even in this dismal economic climate, donations continue to come from many sources. This year we had 48 fishing rod combos and 31 tackle boxes donated, in addition to gift cards for sporting equipment at Academy, movie passes to Cinemark, gift certificates and a day of fishing for five Hutsell families on Herman Meyer's ranch. We had prizes for nearly every child who attended the Take Me Fishing, Houston event on March 28th. So what has fishing meant to Hutsell Elementary? Well, we believe it has increased student and adult interest in outdoor education and recreation. We believe it has increased positive parent involvement in school and at school events. It has definitely increased our schools partnerships with local businesses and corporations. It has increased civic awareness of our school and the accomplishments of the students, faculty and staff, despite the challenges we face. Fishing has demonstrated that learning about science in a natural setting can be exhilarating and highly effective at the same time. It has increased awareness of recycling, energy and resource conservation among students, parents, faculty, staff and community members.
Hutsell Elementary won a $1,000 grant from Ahbee Tebee [phonetic] Bowl Water Recycling in May of 2008. The Environmental Protection Agency was in Katy ISD and visited Hutsell Elementary in August of 2008, because we were considered to be an indoor air quality best practices campus and we also were commended for our recycling of paper and ink cartridges. We were also commended for our participation in Texas Watt Watchers where student patrols monitor lights left on in vacant classrooms and they are learning about reducing wasted energy. We believe that fishing has maximized the effective use of precious natural resources right in our own neighborhood, that being Mary Jo Peckham Park and the Outdoor Learning Center.
Fishing has helped publicize our schools' efforts to integrate learning across all curricular areas, including physical education and the fine arts. And that is particularly true of our 4th grade fishing field trip. It has broadened the scope of our influence to promote fishing within Katy ISD and in districts across the State. And it has generated enthusiasm and camaraderie among faculty and staff for working toward a common goal on behalf of our children. Fishing has created opportunities for collaboration, team work and goal-focused problem solving among faculty and staff members. It has increased school pride. It has helped spotlight research-based best practices in our school, and it has created excitement about learning outdoors. And when we talk about establishing and reestablishing pride in a school that was once designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a National Blue Ribbon School and had fallen to a status of academically acceptable.
What I am talking about is things such as being invited to speak at the Aquatic Resources Educational Association Conference in Corpus Christi in October, and the area chiefs meeting in Killeen in April, being featured in Texas Parks and Wildlife Real Lives Newsletters, and being invited to come to tell you today about our incredible successes. The confidence that has been shown to us by Ann, Kevin and Nancy is uplifting and gratifying. One might wonder whether fishing has been causal to our success with our scores academically, or whether it is a coincidence. One thing is for sure. Our students' success is a result of many people working together with our hearts and hands joined on behalf of our children.
I want to tell you that our preliminary results came in Thursday from our District Office, and based on snapshot data that you have in your packet, it appears that our students have scored above 90 percent on all tests given in grades three, four and five, and we might reasonably predict that once again, instead of acceptable or recognized, that Hutsell Elementary might once again be designated as an exemplary campus. Our 5th grade science scores are up even from last year. 98 percent of our students passed and 50 percent of them this year, not 47, not 48 percent of them demonstrated mastery, again meaning a near perfect score. Also, our 4th grade math students, those that went on that field trip, our scores indicated that those students demonstrated mastery on the math TAKS. 95 percent passed the test and 52 percent of them were commended.
And what I would also like to tell you is that for one of the schools that has the highest number of economically disadvantaged boys and girls on their campus, we are outperforming some of the other schools in Katy ISD. And for that, we are most grateful. And we are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for their support and their resources, which include boater safety training and the use of floatation equipment, and kayaks, the use of Texas Parks and Wildlife rods and reels, bug-picking teaching materials and equipment, support and information about tagging fish, educational literature for students, teachers and parents, Angler Education Certification training. And support at our Take Me Fishing events, specifically Kevin Cunningham, Game Wardens Kevin Melanson and Susan Webb, Don Ballow [phonetic], who has done our boater safety, and of course, Ann Miller and Nancy Herron. Thank you very much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations.
MS. HERRON: Thank you, Keiko. Hutsell is clearly an exemplary school, deservedly so, and certainly with an exemplary principal. Her enthusiasm is clear. We are always looking for a way to evaluate our education efforts. And we were able in this pilot to do a survey with the families that participated at three of the schools. And we learned some exciting things about that, and some pleasant surprises. And just a couple of them. The number of Hispanic families who went fishing four or more days almost tripled. Over 60 percent are now fishing four or more days in a year. Confidence in their skill level rose. Now both of these are key factors in people adopting fishing over the long term.
In the beginning of the pilot, we learned that almost half of the parents or families were concerned about whether there was a safe place to fish. And we saw those numbers go down after participating in the pilot, and having some experience. We also noticed a little blip up on two factors of barriers. One is knowing where to fish, and the other is, how far away a fishing place or access is. I perceive that as a good sign that they are actually looking for places to go fishing, and those are problems we can work on.
So all in all, we were very pleased with the result. We were grateful to the pilot participants who we have seen adopt fishing into their regular programming, and we are encouraged to continue to promote fishing in the schools. And with that, that ends our presentation. And we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any comments from the Commission?
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Congratulations. That is quite an achievement.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I wanted to thank Ms. Davidson for your dedication and your enthusiasm too. I want to go to the next class that goes fishing. And that comes out. And if every one around you is enthused and excited, then you as well, it is so contagious. And it is always good to have something so positive come into your life.
MS. DAVIDSON: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you.
MS. DAVIDSON: That is how we feel about our partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife, too. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: And Nancy, again, thank you for the numbers, too. It is always important to know you know, to gauge are our events are successful, and numbers to prove these are the positive aspects of it. So that is great. And as well, for yourself, and Ann in the back and Kevin. Thank you very much for your enthusiasm and your dedication. And on my part, it has been an honor and a pleasure for me to be in your presence and to be part of catching ‑‑ you are contagious. And it is better than the swine flu.
MS. HERRON: Your support has meant a great deal to staff across the state. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you. I meant to appreciate and thank you for your work.
MS. HERRON: Thank you so much.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Congratulations. Bug catching. Do you want to do the bug catching?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I want to do the bug catch. I could probably lead that one.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: You have got to sit on the ground with me and look for those bugs. Committee Item Number 3, we have the Texas Agrilife Extension Hunter Education Partnership. Mr. Steve Hall.
MR. HALL: Madame Chair, members of the Commission, my name is Steve Hall, Education Director. I oversee the Hunter Education program. We thought we would also bring in a hunting ‑‑ and a hunter education program partnership to you today, alongside the new fishing and local partnerships. We have had a longstanding statewide partner in an interagency agreement with the Texas Agrilife Extension. I guess when we formed the partnership it was a cooperative extension of sorts. And then also of course Texas A&M University 4-H System.
I brought today from A&M, Dr. Jim Cathey on the far right, and Larry Hysmith. They are good partners in more ways than one. They are also former employees and somebody that had to grow up with an employee all of his life. And so we have got a couple of employee partners that took their lifelong ambitions to their other careers in this partnership, and it obviously shows, and you will see that today. Thanks, guys, for coming.
MR. CATHEY: Thanks, Steve. Chairman Holt, Commissioners, my name is Jim Cathey. And we really appreciate the opportunity to come and visit with you from Texas Agrilife Extension Service. Our director, Ed Smith has a letter. I believe Steve is going to pass that out for you. I just want to point out there are a few items here. We really appreciate the 14-year partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife. We recognize the parallels between our missions are strength in one another's growth and impact and recruiting hunters into the field. And as we have heard today, that is very important for our funding conservation on into the next many years. We have an understanding that youth education is central to promoting stewardship and safety, and hence we have programs to teach outdoor and hunting skills. Firearm safety, leadership, wildlife habitat management to participants and 4-H shooting sports, Texas Brigades, Youth Camps at the Texas 4-H Center there in Brownwood, as well as our summer science teaching academies. And Dr. Smith wanted me to just express how much we value this support from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the success of the program. And Larry Hysmith is going to visit with you about some of the metrics that have been gathered up over the last 14 years.
MR. HYSMITH: Thank you. Again, Larry Hysmith, Texas Agrilife Extension Service. And thank you again for allowing us the opportunity to come and visit with you today about this partnership. This is a 14-year-old partnership, going into its 15th year this year. But the inception began even earlier than that, back in 1993. We had meetings between our agencies, and we came up with proposals and trashed proposals and came up with more proposals. And finally had one that we presented, and got it approved in 1994 as the Hunter and Aquatic Education Initiative.
In 1995, we began this program, by putting on the ground two extension professionals and one administrative clerk at the time. In '97, that administrative position, that administrative clerk position was moved over into a professional position so that we could again expand and continue our efforts even more so with three professionals on the ground. '97, '98, we actually partnered with Prairie View A&M, as a cooperative extension program, which increased our capacity for outreach and increased our audience capacity, especially in the inner city and audiences within the 41 counties that Prairie View serviced at the time. In '07, we added a partnership with the Texas 4-H Conference Center, which is basically our 4-H Camp out at Brownwood, on Lake Brownwood.
And through that partnership, even though we have been going out there for years, and providing programs and whatnot, through that partnership, we were able to actually leverage some funding and increase our capacity within their camp programming, and their adult programming throughout the year. And so that opened up that facility even greater for us, and opened up our capacity once again. In '07, 2007, we expanded again into Parks and Wildlife ranks, and included the archery in schools program, where their coordinator, the coordinator of that program is housed in our department, in our building, where we can cooperate and coordinate regularly, and help with the training, help with the programming and go beyond the actual in the school program and move kids on into long-term programming through the 4-H Archery Program.
In '09 currently, we, again, are still working with the 4-H Center out in Brownwood. But we have integrated with them efforts to have school programs incorporating the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills that need to be in any kind of program like that, and the Children in Nature objectives, trying to bring in the schools to the center, and have a school program year round. So those are some things that are actually happening as we speak at this moment.
The purpose of this partnership is to infuse hunter education and through Texas Parks and Wildlife basic programming into extensions networking. When we say networking, we mean the grassroots level ground, on the ground local county extension offices which are represented in every county of the state. And not only through that county office, but through the multiple 4-H Clubs and 4-H programs that come out from those county offices. Mainly, we wanted to maintain our mutual objectives, increase awareness and practice of hunter safety, responsible hunting practices. We wanted to increase that. And we wanted to increase wildlife and habitat stewardship. And those are both agencies' objectives, through our program and through Parks and Wildlife.
We also use these agencies' strengths and the obvious strengths of Texas Parks and Wildlife is the basic awareness knowledge and skills programs such as hunter education that are in place. But we took them a little step further, and ran them through our channels, again, the networking and the grassroots that extension has in place.
Benefits of the program, what have we benefitted from? Well, as stated in the purpose, the number one benefit of the partnership is to instill the quality basic programs into our long term mentoring networks. And that is something that we have tried to put in place, and we have been successful with. Other benefits include strengthening statewide Parks and Wildlife staff efforts, by having additional personnel on the ground, to service the program.
In other words, three professionals basically became Texas Parks and Wildlife staff. Whenever we were needed by Parks and Wildlife programming, we were there. And we schedule that. And that is where we are, and that is where we are today as well. One good example of that is the Texas Outdoor Education Association, a partner, a long term partner with Texas Parks and Wildlife has their annual workshop the same weekend as our Expo. And so all of the many years that that was a conflict, our program stepped up and provided the hunting, the fishing, the shooting programming there at the TOEA annual workshop. I think this year, I am going to be able to steal your Education Director, and once again, put him to work out on the Frio River. I know he is going to hate that.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Rough duty.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Yes..
MR. HYSMITH: Somebody has got to do it though.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I will be tortured with you.
MR. HALL: I will pick you up on the way.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Okay.
MR. HYSMITH: Other benefits do include improving both agencies' effectiveness and creating a greater leverage to expand through financial and other resources that are required to run programs such as ours. Some of the accomplishments that we have had over the years, I have got a few slides here that I want to show you. And although it is going to be difficult, I will try to condense our 14 years of work and accomplishments into just a few major bullets. Providing basic hunter education certification is a definite by-product of the program with over 60,000 certifications. And over 1,600 county extension agents, volunteer adult leaders and teachers and extension programs were trained and certified as instructors.
Advanced programming in hunting and hunter education has been and is one of our major focuses in the program. And we will reach over 1,100 adults, have reached over 11,000 adults, excuse me across the state. And extension personnel also provided editing to our current Texas hunter education instructor manual, the one we are using currently now. Further accomplishments is that the partnership was able to produce the hunter skills trail, a manual for hunter education instructors, detailing the hands-on activities that the hunter skills trail pertains. The manual provides ideas for set-up, materials, resources, and the booklet is available separately as an extension publication but also is inserted into every hunter education manual that we use to train instructors across the state.
Our partnership has fostered the development of the pilot Youth Hunt. That was used to initiate the Texas Youth Hunting Association now called the Texas Youth Hunting Program. And its original training manual and the training procedures for the hunt master certification. Further accomplishments include implementing a course in the Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Department on consumptive use of wildlife resources, including hunting. The course not only was philosophical, but it was hands on, where we took all of the students out and gave them sometimes, their first opportunity to handle firearms safely and shoot them. And so it gave them a greater awareness, becoming wildlife professionals, it gave them a greater awareness and in some cases, it expanded their horizons, so that they could take that into their career.
We also developed a biannual hunter education instructor course that was focused on the Texas A&M Ag Education Department, because those students, a lot of those students, their teacher program go out and train in their schools, hunter education. And so we train them on a biannual basis to become instructors, train and certify them for instructor in hunter ed. Extension personnel have taught hunter ed at the Texas Game Warden Academy.
We continue to provide support for the youth hunter education challenge by promotion and training geared toward 4-H and assist with the development of the volunteer, assisted with the development of the volunteer risk management manual for Texas Aquatic and Hunter Safety Education Programs that was developed through the Recreation and Parks and Tourism Department. Personnel in the partnership participated in the statewide hunter think tank, focusing on hunter recruitment and retention. The partnership currently participates in a similar national effort. And extension personnel also participate in the current TPWD committee championed by the late Commissioner Parker dedicated to the development of shooting programs in the schools. We are currently working on that.
Various summer camp programs focusing on hunting and hunter education topics are operated within our program, or in cooperation with other entities. Some of the stronger ones include the 4-H Shooting Sports Camp at Monahans, which is a long-term camp. It has been going on for many years out there, very successful. The hunter education camp at the Texas 4-H Center, which by the way, I am going home and preparing for that, and I am going to be out there next week, kicking that one off. That is a fun program. The Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society Youth Conservation Camp and the Brazos County Youth Hunter Ed Day Camp, again, just to name a few.
Recently, special emphasis has been placed on program participants in the nine-to-12-year-old age bracket, to develop age appropriate strategies and resources to assist them in understanding the hunter education materials and principles. And that is due to the lowering of the minimum certification age this past year. We wanted to make sure that these kids were able to get that material and understand that material and process it, and then become safe hunters once we certified them in that program, and be successful on top of all that. Recently, or other programs related to hunting and hunter education operated through our program include 4-H Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Program and the 4-H Outdoor Challenges, both of which have hunting components in them. And definitely, habitat evaluation and habitat stewardship built into them.
Some of the awards that the partnership has received over the few years is a '96 award, Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Department awarded the Outstanding Technical Staff. In 1998, Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society awarded the Group Achievement. And in 2001, Texas Agricultural Extension Service Partnership Award, statewide. And in the 2003, Texas A&M Wildlife and Fisheries Department, Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award was presented to this program. So we have lots of successes. And we have had lots of recognition for those successes. And we are much appreciated there.
I have been with the program or with the partnership since its inception. I have been on the ground level. I don't just coordinate and send folks out. I am actually, I am out there a lot myself. And I have had a lot of fun, needless to say. It has been a great time. And it is always fun to be out there with the kids and actually do what we need to do and train the adults to do what we need to do. Again, thank you for the opportunity to come here today and visit with you. And at this time, we would be glad to answer any questions.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Any comments?
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: One question, and I want to recognize John Parker, who obviously is deceased at this point.
MR. HALL: Yes, sir.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: But he was so much behind all of this. I mean, you know, we ought to name some of this for him. Getting back into the shooting programs within schools, where are we with that, and what do you think? What is your opinion on the possibilities?
MR. HALL: Well, starting with the legislative session, it looked like we have some good news out of House Bill 1020, if it is signed, I am hoping this week. If that is signed, that just kind of paves a little bit of a better path for us in the schools with the shooting sports program. The wording, school sponsored, or school related, as it dealt with firearms, that was really important to us that we be able to, like the fishing program, get the pride and go in, in terms of this is our program, this is our school's program without them having risk of being expelled in that process.
So that will really kind of pave the path for us to start what we believe is just like the archery in schools, is an airgun type of program in the schools, and get that going post-haste as kind of an almost an equivalent to the archery. And then continue to obviously, develop the shotgun education programs as designed, not only after-school through extension but also in-school shotgun programs through the Ag clays program. We have an Ag Clays tournament coming up June 8th at the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center. That grew threefold from last year's pilot.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: The one in Kerrville?
MR. HALL: Yes.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MR. HALL: And I think that that bodes well for again, for tapping into that, not only the fishing effort but the pride of shotgun sports but to connect the dots between school and the 4-H Shooting Sports Program which these guys, as you can tell have really promulgated through the years. They have really tied this together, so much so, that I think Texas is one of the highlights in the partnership nationally, where some states wonder how they work with their Ag extension or 4-H in their states, and they are wondering how to do that. When they typically come to these guys here, and say, how did you get this partnership going together? And that is 15 years down the road. It is pretty neat.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: How do you see it relative going to urban schools and inner city schools. Do you have any luck at all there?
MR. HALL: Well three of the schools that are coming to that Ag Clays shotgun championship are what I would call very urban schools.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Okay.
MR. HALL: So you see that seed planted. And it is basically because the leader is somebody that has either touched base with Charlie Wilson or one of you, or somebody that is integrally involved in 4-H shooting sports. And in their minds, it is about time we did this kind of thing.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Okay.
MR. HALL: Now, it is still an uphill battle, as you know. Shotguns in especially urban schools is always going to be somewhat ‑‑ it is a strong education program, and the more we can do to educate people that these aren't ‑‑ that there is this positive side of the shooting sports. We call them firearms and sporting arms, and other people call them weapons, you know.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. Well, even air gun would be, at least that is a start.
MR. HALL: And air guns is, to us, it is critical. Because it is catching them at the 4th through 6th grade level and that is the age that if you don't get them then, truthfully, high school is a little late.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. Any other questions or comments? Thank you all for coming in.
Sorry, Margaret. I didn't mean to get in your way.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I wanted to thank Steve. Over the last couple of years, we have seen this take many twists and turns. And I think it is going on a really positive path right now. And I want to contribute a lot of that to your leadership and your personality of being able to navigate through a lot of difficult personalities and just for the nature of it being shotguns in school and just the whole idea that certain people have. A lot of it. You know, you have a great way of coming across and bringing that leadership to help people have a really positive opinion of it. And the gentleman to your side, I want to thank him. It has been great working with you over those times. Appreciate all the work you do, because you are going to make it possible for Parks and Wildlife to continue getting the youth outdoors hunting, fishing and being great stewards of our natural resources. So thank you for making our job continue on. Thank you.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you all.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Committee Item Number 4, Texas Paddling Trails Program. Ms. Shelley Plante.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: We need hats.
MS. PLANTE: For the record, my name is Shelley Plante, and I am the Nature Tourism Coordinator here at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. And I work in the Communications Division. And as was said, I am going to be briefing you guys on the Texas Paddling Trails Program, and how we have organized this program for Texas Parks and Wildlife Agency. Why, first off, are we actually interested in paddling here in Texas? And in addition to all of the wonderful streams, rivers, bays, bayous and lakes that we have, there are some really significant data going on in terms of our constituency. And that is, that more Americans are actually paddling in the United States than play soccer. And that is ages six and up. Think about how many kids six and up play soccer. We have more paddlers. And these are people participating in the outdoors.
And kayaking participation nationwide even doubled between 1998 and 2004. So this was kind of a group that we needed to have on our radar and we needed to be figuring out ways to really connect them to the outdoors here in Texas. So we do not have a paddling trails coordinator per se, but we have a really active team, and some of that team is here with me today. And we work together very closely to create this thing. If any of us were missing, I don't know that the program would be as successful as it has been. Myself in Communications, I kind of handle the front end, working with the communities, partnerships, and then answering inquiries from tourism.
In the audience, we have Melissa Parker and Ron Smith. They are here with Inland Fisheries. And they help with much of that technical guidance, the river surveys and helping to map each individual trail, which is part of that information we provide to the general public. Paul Hammerschmidt has recently taken over for Bob Spain in Coastal Fisheries, and he is our team lead from Coastal Fisheries. And he does that same technical guidance, helping us map, go out and do these surveys on each trail that comes to us through a community partnership. In Wildlife Division, we have Elishea Smith and Mike Wallace and they are interpretive specialists. And they aren't here today, but they have created the actual design and look of our kiosks. And they actually made kiosk design plans. So when we work with the community, we are able to hand them design plans on how to build things, so there is a look, a consistent look, from paddling trail to paddling trail throughout the state.
And in State Parks, we have park managers on some of our trails, if they begin or end in a state park such as Goliad Paddling Trail, the recently launched Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail ends at Fort Parker State Park. And then additionally, we have the State Park Grant Program, so some of our communities have been really great at seeking out these grants as ways to enhance these access sites and make hiking and biking trails, and really make it a community point that people can come to for more than just paddling, but hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and all sorts of things.
So we did develop some criteria a few years back. Coastal and Inland Fisheries were really involved in this. And what we were looking for were family friendly paddling trails. We wanted trails that were four-to-12-mile segments with public access at each end, and public parking that was easy to get to. We wanted natural and historic attractions that you could enjoy on the trail, adequate water quality, depth, river flows. And we did want a population center near by, so that our tourists really could have access to lodging and gas and food and everything that they would need if they were out and participating in the outdoors.
We have had several program goals that are Agency goals. We wanted to develop a water access program for Texas Parks and Wildlife. And in that, we really wanted to increase public access to water-based recreation by creating these family friendly water trails on a statewide basis. We developed partnerships with community leaders, other agencies and local river authorities to help manage, develop and improve water access sites statewide. We have been very successful. Our accomplishments are many, and it wouldn't have been possible without this cross-divisional effort. Our cross-divisional team brings a suite of strengths and expertise to the table. I am very good at working with communities, but I don't really know a whole lot about fisheries. Fisheries folks are able to fill that gap, so together we are able to meet with a community and meet all of their needs, to make a successful paddling trail. We have also streamlined the application and certification process, so we have had broader participation statewide than I think any of us expected in the beginning. It has become a very easy paddling trail if you meet our criteria to become certified and become part of our program. And then that allows us as an Agency the opportunity to educate the public in ways that we didn't have before, telling more people about river safety and water conservation, private land owner rights, sorts of things that we want people to know while they are navigating our waterways in Texas. And we have created new and improved access sites on all of these trails without dollars from Texas Parks and Wildlife. They are through our community partnerships. And it has allowed us to really do program branding, where people know, if they see a Texas Parks and Wildlife Paddling trail, they know what to expect, and they have confidence in that trail. They know if they put in, they will be able to get out later on. They are not going to be stuck on a river for 40 miles. So it is very important.
So some of these access improvements, it is more than just a boat ramp. Although we do have many new public water access points with canoe and kayak boat ramps, we also are available with our expertise to meet with local communities just to give them guidance on how to create a canoe or kayak boat ramp, because it is different than a concrete boat ramp. These pictures here at Victoria Riverside Park Paddling Trail, this is the takeout point. And when we did our survey, this access site did not exist. They wanted our advice on the best place to do an access site and there is this wonderful inlet off the river, that was easier to get on and off without flow, and we were able to point that out as a spot that we thought would be great. There was parking right up the hill. And they sought out funding and they built this wonderful boat ramp that did not exist before it became a part of our program. This boat ramp cost $21,000 to create. And the community came up with that money, and it now exists.
So that is just one example. Other improvements are as simple as site maintenance. We have, we require our community partner to have maintenance at the site. They do trash pickup, police patrols. They make sure that that site remains a positive element within their community and they are the eyes on the ground. They are able to do improvements to the existing boat launches. But that increased visibility, more people visiting, more eyes in the field, has created a sustainable use of land, where sometimes, the negative elements were using some of these parcels, now we have family friendly areas that have people doing regular maintenance. And it has been real positive for many of our community partners.
And most of you are familiar I hope, with the coastal paddling trails. These came out in 1999. The Coastal Fisheries Division realized that there was a need. People were kayaking and fishing on the coast. And Lighthouse Lake's Paddling Trail was mapped in 1999. And then in the years after that, we had a total of seven coastal trails that launched. And they have been very successful and very popular. I get emails about them regularly from the public. Then in March 2006, we had our first inland paddling trail. And this was the Luling-Zedler Mill Paddling Trail. It has been very popular.
And with this, came a flurry of interest from communities across the state. And we had a certification program, now this trail kind of launched as a statewide program, with a certification process and an application process. This is where our team got together and Commissioner Montgomery got involved with this trail and has been very supportive throughout and remains supportive, and has been one of our best cheerleaders for the Paddling Trails Program. Since this, we did a briefing to you guys three years ago, and at that time, we committed to launch two to three paddling trails a year. That was our commitment. That is what we wanted and hoped to achieve. And we have met that and then surpassed that.
And in FY 2007, we actually were able to launch two trails. And the reason that was only two, is there were some weather conditions that prevented us from launching. We had some severe droughts that summer, and we weren't able to launch all the ones that we wanted to. But we were able to launch Goliad Paddling Trail which ends at Goliad State Park, and the Columbus Paddling Trail. Then in FY 2008, we ramped up the program a bit and launched four paddling trails. You see Commissioner Martin there, at the Bastrop El Camino Real Paddling Trail. That is the launch of Victoria Paddling Trail in January of that year. The Nichols Landing Paddling Trail in the Upper Guadalupe in Comal County, and you see Commissioner Duggins there at Lake Arlington Paddling Trail. And again, Commissioner Montgomery has been supportive and comes out to some of these as well. So his support, and now Commissioner Martin has kind of taken the lead, and it has been wonderful having her at all of these trail launches.
Now FY 2009 is not over yet, but we have already launched four trails. That is the Bastrop Wilbarger Paddling Trail which is upriver from the El Camino Real Paddling Trail. The Buffalo Bayou, which is our first downtown Houston paddling trail. Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail which is at Fort Parker State Park, which is wonderful. And then Lady Bird Lake Paddling Trail right here in Austin. And we have more that are in process, that we are working on that are going to launch in the next six months. So here is a map of kind of where we are. The big orange dots are the 18 paddling trails that are now in our program. They have a website, they have kiosks, they have site information. People can go out to them and learn about them on our website. We have nine more that are in progress. And that is actually a little bit higher than that, because two of those are multi-trail sites.
The one at Martin Dies Jr. State Park is actually going to be four trails in and of itself, and the one in Brazoria County is actually going to be five trails in and of itself. So that number is actually a little bit bigger. And then we have seven that we are working on. We are in constant discussion with communities. And there are seven communities in particular that assure me they are going to have applications to me in the next six months. They are just trying to get all of their ducks in a row and make sure that everything is ready to go. When they meet us, we can roll it out pretty quickly.
So our future plans are pretty simple. We want to get a general informational rack card. It is right now, in development. But we are going to be printing these and getting these to convention and visitor bureaus, tourist centers, travel information centers. We are also designing kind of a template for individual trail brochures, so that every paddling trail can have its own brochure that they have at visitor centers or have at events. It will, again, allow us to brand the program. Every brochure will have a similar look, so that people know when they see it, it is one of our programs. And then the website reorganization. Currently, you can search for paddling trails either inland or coastal, and we want to make that so that you can search regionally. If you are going to Central Texas, what paddling trails are in that region? So that is going to be part of that reorganization coming up. And then finally, we just wanted to develop new partnerships. We are launching new trails statewide, so keeping those conversation lines open. Doing presentations to local communities. And then, letting people come to us when there is interest and that spark within the community that really wants to take part in this tourism attraction. So with that, I am happy to answer any questions, and enjoy your hats. Yes.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: How many of these access points have boats for rent?
MS. PLANTE: How many trails have boats for rent? That is a tricky question, because REI contacted us early on. And you can rent REI equipment and take it anywhere in the state. So they are listed on every single trail. They aren't at all. The initial criteria that we set up was that we would require a livery at or near the location for the paddling trail. We started realizing that some of these rural communities, that wasn't going to be the case, first off. So it is not at every single paddling trail. But that information is on the website. So every paddling trail, you can see if there is something available on site or not. And then if not, if you have an REI near you, you can go rent that equipment and the rack, and bring it all with you to where ever you are going.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I am glad you brought up Phil Montgomery. I don't know if all of you knew Phil, but he was a Commissioner not that long ago. And he was the one. He really got on this. And then he really worked the website and idea and all of that. And I know you were a big part of that too. So this is terrific. This thing has really taken off.
MS. PLANTE: It has.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: It is exciting.
MS. PLANTE: It is great. I mean, I look at my plate, and our plate. And the fact that we have nine to 15 trails that we could be launching in the next six to 12 months.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Right.
MS. PLANTE: It is interesting.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: You are a little busy running around.
MS. PLANTE: Yes. This is none of our ‑‑ only job. So this is just a portion of what we do.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Oh, I know. Thank you for doing that, and Commissioner Martin, too. Because this really has taken off. It is amazing.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Commissioner Montgomery was at the Lady Bird Lake.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That is just what Carter was just saying. Yes.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: It was great to see him. And it was fun.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I am glad he came. Yes. Because he as a big part of this, and getting it kicked off.
MS. PLANTE: And he came to Lake Arlington as well.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Sure did. Yes.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Yes.
COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Where is the one in Johnson County, or Somervell County that is pending? Or is it?
MS. PLANTE: Somervell County. I am going to have to look.
MR. SMITH: Is that on the Brazos? Do we have something on the Brazos up there?
MS. PLANTE: Yes. The Glen Rose. It is near the City of Glen Rose.
MR. SMITH: I see yours.
MS. PLANTE: And we have the application. They are working on getting a multi-use agreement at the bridge crossing there. And once they get a multi-use agreement with TxDOT going, then we will be ready to go. And that will actually be the first paddling trail that has a private land owner as one of the access sites. And so the Sandlin property there will be the take-out.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes.
MS. PLANTE: And there is a local livery there that rents and does shuttles.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Good. We need somebody to run all of them. We're part of the Canadian ‑‑
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: If we have enough water in the Canadian to ‑‑
COMMISSIONER HOLT: That's the problem in other areas.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: All things will be good.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Kayaks don't take a whole lot of water.
COMMISSIONER BIVINS: That is true.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: We have to put wheels on that kayak.
MR. SMITH: Be careful what you ask for.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Right. Shelley, thank you for taking on more.
MS. PLANTE: That is fine.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: I know you have a lot on your plate, and you are passionate about nature tourism and it is great. And thank you. And again, all of these paddling trails. It is healthy, mentally, physically. And a great way to see our beautiful state, too.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Yes. On the water.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Thank you for your presentation.
MS. PLANTE: Thanks for being patient. I know I am the last thing, I think, for the day.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: It is great.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: Thank you. It is a nice way to end it. Yes.
COMMISSIONER MARTIN: Mr. Chairman, the committee has completed its business.
COMMISSIONER HOLT: I think Carter keeps loading us up. Testing us. There will be a test tomorrow morning. Thank you. And I do declare us adjourned. Thank you, everybody. Thank you for staying.
(Whereupon, the meeting was concluded at 4:15 p.m.)
C E R T I F I C A T E
MEETING OF: Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Outreach & Education Committee
LOCATION: Austin, Texas
DATE: May 27, 2009
I do hereby certify that the foregoing pages, numbers 1 through 50, 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