The old Joe Bailey’s Fish Camp on the banks of Cow Bayou near the swing bridge in Bridge City and a possible site for the Bridge City Waterfront Park and Museum. The Bridge City Waterfront Park and Museum was added to the wish list after the RESTORE meeting was held on September 15 at Lamar University. The meeting dealt with different governmental entities making project proposals as a result of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the settlement that resulted.

David Ball – For The Record

The Bridge City Waterfront Park and Museum was added to the wish list after the RESTORE meeting was held on September 15 at Lamar University. The meeting dealt with different governmental entities making project proposals as a result of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the settlement that resulted.

The city of Bridge City seeks to build a city park, natural area, and international wildlife interpretive museum on four acres of land along Cow Bayou that it received as a donation ($940,000) from philanthropist Tony Houseman and his family.

Mayor Kirk Roccaforte said it could take between now and 2017 before the city would see any of the money.

“I thought we were done a year ago with it. These things take time. It’s the way the formula is set up,” he said. “We still have to figure out who, what, where, when, and how.”

Currently, the property is leased as the city does not own the property.

Roccaforte said the major project the city is involved in along with other cities in Orange County is the regional wastewater plant to be built. The project is shovel-ready and it would “move along” if got the funding.

“The funds trickle down (to the waterfront park and museum),” he said. “The project hasn’t been proposed to the public much.”

He added the Bridge City Historical Society was to grant funds in the past if they received them, but that never happened until the BP funds made it a possibility.

“I don’t know if it (waterfront park and museum) will qualify for the BP funds. But it doesn’t hurt to look. You’ll never know if you don’t ask,” Roccaforte said.

The meeting was held for representatives of local governmental entities on September 15 at Lamar University in the University Theater Building to restore the Texas coastline. The focus was to serve as a Listening Session. According to www.restorethetexascoast.org, Commissioner Toby Baker, Texas designee to the federal RESTORE Council, hosted four Listening Sessions along the coast in September. The purpose of the Listening Sessions was to give the public an opportunity to comment on the priorities for the Texas coast as they move forward with implementing the federal RESTORE Act and distributing RESTORE funds.
Specifically the public was invited to comment on the Priorities Document, which outlines the criteria for awarding RESTORE funds and is based on elements of grant review processes currently accepted by the Federal government.
Also, a Framework document was developed to facilitate the discussion of the implementation of the RESTORE Act in Texas. Among other things, the Framework document describes the importance of a healthy coastal community on both the environment and economy of Texas and the United States.

Congress passed the RESTORE Act to protect and restore the natural and economic resources of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast. The Act was passed in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill to provide funding for coastal restoration and recovery for the affected Gulf Coast states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. The environmental and economic injuries caused by the spill were extensive. The legal aftermath of the spill will require the parties responsible to pay substantial damages to address these injuries. Through the RESTORE Act, Congress allocated 80 percent of the administrative and civil penalties related to the spill to the states and the federal government to restore and revitalize the Gulf Coast. A portion of the RESTORE Act allocation comes directly to Texas. This document builds a framework for implementing coastal restoration and revitalization under RESTORE.

Jerry Jones, city manager for Bridge City, said there are two projects for the city, the waterfront park and a regional sewer plant for Orange County and the cities and utilities.

He said there are many variations and other applications for the funding.

“We won’t know until it’s over. Until it actually happens. For us, the regional sewer plant is first; the park is second,” Jones said.

Shawn Sparrow, vice president for Tony Houseman Homes who owns the waterfront property, said the property is on the market (for sale). He added the property could be used for the waterfront park and museum and that the city was once interested in the property.

“There was one time the city showed an interest. It’s been awhile,” he said.

Sparrow said every now and then someone is interested in acquiring the property.

“It’s the last property available on the bayou. Someone, for instance, could bring a barge in. There’s more interest in a property along the water than a property on the highway,” Sparrow said. “A water park recreational venue would be a wonderful asset to the community.”

Ultimately, it’s a case of first come, first serve in purchasing the property.

Interest in a waterfront park and museum started several years ago by the Bridge City Historical Society. In a former Record article, Many still remember Joe Bailey’s Fish Camp that was once located there. Famous for good times, the establishment flourished in the days when operation of the swing bridge was a routine part of life in early Bridge City.

After Joe Bailey’s Fish Camp burned in the 1970’s the shoreline remained available for public enjoyment but later closed. Since then the land has remained vacant for nearly four decades.

In 2011, it was reported the waterfront park project got a huge boost in April when Ms. Gisela Houseman became a partner in the campaign. As landowner, Houseman placed the property within reach of the fund-raising efforts of the nonprofit Historical Museum of Bridge City. She also pledged to build a multipurpose facility on the land. The facility would serve as a nature and heritage center. The large, raised structure was being designed and constructed by Tony Houseman Homes.

Bridge City Architect Mark Magnuson was pitching in by designing the waterfront park itself. When the master plan was to be completed the Historical Museum of Bridge City would launch the capitol campaign to help purchase the property and develop it.