GALENA PARK – A team of Texas A & M University professors and specialists in professional fields such as planning, engineering, and the environment, presented to the public their project which focused on this city, due to its many “vulnerabilities” to environment threats. The presentation was made last Thursday May 6 to a CIP (Community-Industry Partnership) meeting virtually through Zoom.
Led by professors Jaimie Masterson and Deidra Davis, the team included students and the professors. Investigation and planning were conducted both in person in the field, and in the classroom at TAMU.
The study was entitled “PLANNING TO INCREASE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR GALENA PARK RESIDENTS.” Its stated goal was “Engaging the Galena Park Community to Build Resilience to Excess Industrial Pollutant Releases after Hurricanes and Floods in Greater Houston.”
The team explained that the study methods and solutions could be applied to many of the communities and cities along the ship channel, due to their proximity to industry, and flooding from the bay and ship channel. Galena Park was chosen for the study because it was vulnerable, close to these threat disasters, and typical of other area communities.
The study included flooding simulations and related chemical releases, a study through a survey of health problems related to the environment, and study of green infrastructure and planting, both existing and proposed.
The Design studio used a special software known as “Social Pinpoint,” to highlight and locate on a map of the city where problems were severe or could be mediated.
The Research Objectives were to:
— Characterize potential for hurricanes/floods to increase hazardous exposures in Galena Park due to releases from industrial facilities;
— Identify important non-chemical stressors in Galena Park and their potential to exacerbate health problems;
— Identify and evaluate promising Green Infrastructure to mitigate risks from industrial facilities releases.
The working hypothesis of the Study Group was that Green Planting, i.e. shrubs, trees, grass, and other natural materials combined with swales and improved drainage, could be instrumental in alleviating much of the environmental threats.
Part of the study technique was community engagement, with personal interviews and social media used to find problems and test solutions.
An analysis of the date collected was categorized for Built Environment: transportation, infrastructure, ship docks and dredging, building footprint and use, site orientation, and Natural Environment: elevations, sequestering space, and PH in the soils.
As a template for planning, the Study Group set action points for Community Engagement:
— Develop a Community Vision
— Set Goals
— Set Objectives
— Take Action.
Community Engagement involves not only the public, but also any government entities. The Study Group reported that they had limited “limited response” from Galena Park government officials, although a tour with Jorge Flores of the city was planned soon.
Jaimie Masterson, Director of TAMU’s Texas Target Communities, and a member of this study group, explained why a Master Plan is important, even to small communities such as Galena Park.
She said a good plan depicts for the public an overarching vision, helps gather public feedback, and visualizes a possible future.
The Master Plan is a public document that justifies city decision making, guides individual development approvals by elected officials and planning boards, is a basis for capital improvement projects, and opens new funding opportunities and grants.
The study group plans to continue their project in the fall, with a completion date by the end of 2021 or first quarter 2022. There will be further presentations and public engagement, they said. In the meantime, they may be contacted at: