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Wednesday, February 23 • 3:30pm - 4:15pm
Track 1: Hurricane Recovery of Nature-Based Tourism

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On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 hurricane about 10 miles north of Port Aransas, Texas on San Jose Island. Port Aransas experienced heavy rainfall, 130 mph winds, and a storm surge of ~10 feet above sea level. The Port Aransas Nature Preserve totals 1,280 acres of saltmarsh, freshwater wetlands, tidal flats, and upland prairie habitats that include the Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture, Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Joan & Scott Holt Paradise Pond, and Wetland Park. Hurricane Harvey caused major damage to infrastructure, wildlife habitat, and other amenities at all sites. Four years later, the City is still working with FEMA to rebuild the major damages. 
Re-opening the parks and Nature Preserve sites was important so that residents, volunteers, and visitors could have a place to have some joy. However, as a community, there were larger priorities; at times staff were pulled to other projects and had to adapt to new roles. Immediately after Harvey, the unbelievable generosity and support of volunteers from all over the country helped the Nature Preserve clean-up, rebuild, and re-vegetate. The Nature Preserve Manager took on a huge role of searching for funding opportunities and writing proposals for grants for the Nature Preserve and other City departments. The unfortunate event stimulated new projects that were in the Master Plan for greater connectivity and expansion of the Nature Preserve sites and new amenities. It also provided an opportunity for new designs of infrastructure to increase resiliency by building smarter and stronger. Support came from various entities for tree giveaways and plantings for public and private property. Partnerships with local, state, and federal agencies; non-profits; and universities were very important and were strengthened by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  
This presentation will focus on the strategies used to clean-up, rebuild, and restore habitats following a major natural disaster. Preparation for disasters, damage assessments, community needs, and recovery will also be discussed. The takeaway is to be creative and to not be afraid to reach out to everyone you know because, chances are, they want to and can help.

avatar for Rae Mooney

Rae Mooney

City of Port Aransas
Rae Mooney is the City of Port Aransas Nature Preserve Manager.  Rae was hired in 2019 and has continued many of the grants and projects Colleen began following Hurricane Harvey.  Rae is working on projects to expand the Nature Preserve and increase connectivity between sites.  Habitat... Read More →
avatar for Colleen Simpson

Colleen Simpson

City of Port Aransas
Colleen Simpson is the City of Port Aransas Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, which includes the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.  Colleen previously worked as the Nature Preserve Manager.  She began that role in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey hit Port Aransas in 2017.  In... Read More →

Wednesday February 23, 2022 3:30pm - 4:15pm MST
Sonoran 2