Preserve supports wildlife while acting as a natural form of flood control
While most people think of the Texas City Prairie Preserve as a hot spot for bird watching and trail hiking, the 2,300-acre area also is a significant tool in flood control.
On the shores of Moses Lake and Galveston Bay in Texas City, the preserve was created in 1995 by The Nature Conservancy with a $2.2 million land donation from the Mobil Oil Co. — now ExxonMobil — to restore and revitalize the coastal habitat and preserve the species that depend on it for survival.
The goal was to protect coastal prairies that support a wide variety of wildlife, including more than 280 species of birds.
But the prairie also is of great importance in helping with flood control and coastal resistance, Associate Director Vanessa Martin said.
“It’s a lot about restoration that can be transported to solve really big problems that Texas is facing,” she said. “We are using cities like this to showcase how prairies act like sponges. They filter and hold stormwater.”
It’s important to keep the conserved area intact to protect natural resources on the site, Martin said.
“So, 99 percent of the great coastal prairies that once spanned 9 million acres has been lost,” she said. “We are really wanting to stitch together the prairies that remain. We need to share the value of protecting places like this.”
The preserve requires community attention because it acts as a safe haven for bird species and various grasses, Upper Coast Project Director Aaron Tjelmeland said.
“We have over 280 species of birds,” he said. “Those species represent thousands of birds that use the preserve yearly. The preserve protects them and provides a resource for the local community.”
The park is focused on restoration through planting seeds and spreading prairie acreage, Tjelmeland said.
“It’s one of our primary focuses, trying to bring back some of the prairies that have been lost,” he said. “We harvest over 40 pounds of wildflower seeds annually. Our goal is to build commercial markets for those seeds and in turn growers so that anyone who wants to restore the prairie can plant those seeds and restore prairie on their land.”
But flood control is the most vital service the preserve offers to the county, Tjelmeland said.
“We are also working with a lot of our partners to protect our shoreline from erosion,” he said. “It protects the land and builds valuable wetlands behind them. These prairies and wetlands act as a natural buffer and filter and disperse a lot of water from storms and floods. They are able to slow the flood of water.”
Communities are realizing the significance of prairies, and the Texas City Prairie Preserve is working on creating more opportunities for residents to volunteer and help maintain it, Tjelmeland said.
“We are working to increase the availability of the preserve for visitors,” he said. “We want to connect people with nature. We are always looking for new ways to do more.”