The Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail
Houston Audubon and several public and non-profit partners received approval to implement a Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail (BPNT)—a nature-based conservation, education and economic development initiative that connects 13 world-class sites on the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County. The concept and plan were developed in collaboration with the High Island Independent School District, Galveston County, Peninsula Development Coalition, Galveston Independent School District, Bolivar Peninsula Historical Society, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Houston Canoe Club, and others.
As part of the State of Texas’ process to secure funding to restore our coast under the federal Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies (RESTORE) Act, a list of projects was presented in 2017 for public comment to determine which projects were included in the state's Multi-Year Implementation Plan. The Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail was approved.
The Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail is a nature-based conservation, education and economic development initiative that connects 13 world-class sites on the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County. This collaborative effort—spearheaded by local residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations—seeks to protect and enhance critical wildlife habitat and develop visitor facilities like boardwalks, trails, and improved signage at locations across the Peninsula, from the Galveston Ferry to High Island. By drawing specific sites together under one symbolic trail, residents and partners hope to enhance visitors’ access and experiences as they explore some of the special historical, cultural and natural features of the peninsula, including forested, wetland, beach, and bay-side areas. Visitation of these sites will offer fun recreational and educational opportunities that will help bring increased awareness of the area’s unique natural resources and help enhance the area’s economy.
The Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail proposal included:
- Miles of new or improved trails and boardwalks
- Wayfinding and interpretive signage at sites across the peninsula
- New observation towers and platforms at key sites
- Park improvements at Fort Travis Seashore Park
- Improved bay access for watercraft
- Strategic land acquisition to connect and improve High Island sanctuaries
- A conservation and information center for visitors
- Creation of two new rookery islands
- An elevated walkway though the forest overlooking world class rookery areas at High Island
Roseate Spoonbill and chicks
Increases the Houston-Galveston Bay area’s significance as a top destination for birding, swimming, boating and exploration. By highlighting, enhancing and connecting areas of interest from the Galveston Island Ferry to High Island, wildlife enthusiasts, outdoorsmen, families, photographers and the casual explorer may enjoy a wider range of opportunities when spending time on the Upper Texas Coast.
Enhances the Bolivar Peninsula economy. Tourism is already a mainstay of the Bolivar Peninsula’s economy. In recent years, over 49,000 people have purchased Bolivar beach parking stickers each year, 10,000+ people have visited Audubon sanctuaries annually, and 500-700 homes are rented out to visitors. The Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail will build on this already significant economic driver by: (1) increasing the length of visitors’ stays, (2) extending the length of “peak” tourism season, and (3) providing new visitor experience that attract both new and returning guests. By providing improved opportunities for visitors, the Bolivar Peninsula Nature Trail will support local businesses, create new business opportunities, and inject renewed strength into the local economy.
Improves the visitor experience. Funding for this proposal will improve visitor attractions and make navigating to these destinations much easier. Trails, boardwalks, and improved boat access and parking areas will allow residents and visitors to see parts of the Peninsula that they’ve never experienced before. A new visitor center at High Island will provide a one-stop-shop for information about the Peninsula and its unique attractions. And a cohesive system of signage will make navigating to, and learning about, each destination much easier.
Raises awareness of the Peninsula’s unique natural resources. The Bolivar Peninsula is home to world-class natural resources—from Bolivar Flats to High Island. Enhancements at each of the 13 Nature Trail sites will provide guests with information about the history, culture, and incredible ecology of the Bolivar Peninsula. This, in turn, will help raise awareness of the Peninsula’s unique assets.
Protects the Bolivar Peninsula’s natural resources. Funding in this proposal will support invasive species removal, habitat enhancement, and limited land acquisition. These activities will greatly benefit the visitor experience, and will ensure that the Peninsula’s unique resources can be enjoyed—and treasured—by future generations.