Resort evolution along the Gulf of Mexico littoral: historical, morphological, and environmental aspects
Meyer-Arendt, Klaus J.
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The development histories of eight coastal resorts along the Gulf of Mexico littoral (Fort Myers Beach, Pensacola Beach, Dauphin Island, Grand Isle, Galveston Island, South Padre Island, Tecolutia, and Progreso) are documented to evaluate variability of temporal, spatial, and environmental aspects of resort development. Temporally, a modified S-curve model of resort evolution is offered to describe the historical development of seaside resorts, and stages of exploration, infrastructural development, and settlement expansion precede each resort's leveling off stage. The upper level of development, or level of maturation, varies among the sites, primarily as a function of demand. Resorts in high demand undergo an additional development stage prior to reaching maturation - land use intensification. In this stage, a resort becomes characterized by high-density land use and corollary high levels of visitation and seasonal occupancy. After a resort reaches its level of maturation, it declines in terms of attractiveness to new recreationists and tourists. Spatially, a resort's morphology reflects its stage of development. The initial locus of development at the resort site generally evolves into the recreational core area, or recreational business district, and subsequent growth fans outward from this core. While any pre-existing settlement in the area avoided the exposed beachfront as a locus of construction, recreational development proceeds by a pattern of linear shorefront urbanization and subsequent urban infilling of zones removed from the waterfront. At resorts subject to land use intensification, high-density development initially takes place at more distal zones within the bounds of the site, but eventually 'redevelopment' of older properties transforms the beachfront into a high-rise landscape. Environmentally, greater variability in degree of human modification is noted. Generally, environmental changes become more widespread with successive stages of development. Dune disturbance, shoreline armoring, and wetlands dredging are extensive during the settlement expansion stage, but preservation efforts are often made as a resort matures. If shoreline erosion constitutes a serious problem for continued resort development, human efforts at stabilization by either 'hard' or 'soft' methods may only propel a resort into an early maturation stage. Hurricanes were found to stimulate progression through the development stages, primarily by facilitating land use intensification via 'redevelopment'.