Highways, Preferences, and Ordinances: How to protect the Scenic Resources of the Texas Coastal Zone


Jan. 25, 2007


Mills, LV

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Galveston Bay Estuary Program


Texas has the fourth longest coastal zone in the country and it is vitally important for national energy interests, fishing, the petrochemical industry and tourism. Texas has a strong private property ethic which is codified in its tax laws, land use policy and coastal zone management plans. Texas also has a spectacularly beautiful coastline and uniqueness in its diversity of coastal environments from semi-tropical humid to dry, arid landscapes. This research project focused on protection of coastal scenic resources. As part of this research, a survey of visual changes to the scenic character of the coast from development activities was completed using over 400 volunteer participants. Graphics examples of different levels of development were utilized including scenes of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. Survey participants were asked to select the preferred level of development for each of the 18 scenes presented in the internet-based questionnaire. Scenic preferences were clearly biased toward natural settings and sand beach environments that were clean, relatively undeveloped and had minimum erosion or loss of vegetation. These scenic values were converted into area quality values, then mapped for the five case study areas and design recommendations for scenic protection measures were proposed. This same methodology can easily be applied to highway corridor studies focusing on preserving scenic quality. Scenic protection measures of coastal communities were canvassed to determine the effectiveness for managing the coastal zone for a high quality scenic environment. This study suggests a critical need for a comprehensive study of scenic resources for the entire Texas coast so that these values may be quantified, properly assessed and prioritized for future management or conservation activities.




conservation, development, scenic protection, scenic values, surveys