By CHRIS O’SHEA ROPER | Thursday, August 21, 2014 12:15 am

There is a new partnership in Galveston focused on nature tourism, and it is preparing for an exciting and wide-open future.

Spurred by frequent requests from nature tourism organizations to work together, the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council and the Galveston Bay Area Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists took the lead to launch this partnership to “create a network that will advocate for Galveston Island conservation and preservation through the economic and cultural value of nature tourism.”

Formally titled the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Partnership, it is becoming known as NTP, for short.

The group hosted Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough at its latest meeting and was pleased to note that the mayor is on the same page in terms of support for nature tourism on the island. In discussing his focus on infrastructure, the mayor indicated that cleaning up the “gateways” to the city, such as the Interstate 45 corridor and 61st and 71st streets, is important. And he noted that it is also important to nature tourists, who want to see a clean Galveston when they arrive.

When asked if he thought the City Council was informed and supportive of nature tourism in Galveston, the mayor responded, “You won’t have a hard sell in terms of promoting nature tourism with the city.”

The new Galveston Island Nature Tourism Partnership is made up of representatives of nonprofit organizations and public entities that provide nature tourism services, events and education to visitors and Galveston residents. Member organizations include Artist Boat, Audubon, Clean Galveston, Galveston Bay Foundation, Galveston BayKeepers, Galveston Island Tree Conservancy, Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Moody Gardens, Scenic Galveston, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Surfrider Foundation, Texas Nature Conservancy, Galveston Parks Department, the Convention and Visitor Bureau, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Galveston Island State Park and Friends of Galveston Island State Park.

To date, the group has partnered with to develop a calendar of nature tourism events for both guests and residents available through Member organizations shared volunteers during events such as the Bucket Brigade to educate visitors on the benefits of sargassum, sponsored by the Park Board.

Other opportunities to collaborate included the volunteer response to the oil spill sponsored by Galveston Bay Foundation, trash pickup on the beach after July Fourth, sponsored by the Surfriders’ Foundation, and beach patrols sponsored by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

Partnership members have begun working on a series of “itineraries” for visitors to the island that reflect activities across organizations. In the coming months, the partnership will create a short list of goals for the coming year, including things like educating people on the value (including economic value) of nature tourism, creating a common language and message on nature tourism, and establishing a clear and ongoing dialogue with the City.

Many thanks to Mayor Yarbrough for his time and interest.

For additional information on the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Partnership, contact Julie Ann Brown at