The Liberty County Strategic Plan was recently awarded the American Planning Association’s (APA) Silver National Planning Achievement Award for Resilience Planning.
The resilient citizens in Liberty County on the Texas coast know all too well the devastation of floods. The rural county sits just 23 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, between Houston and Beaumont, and is home to rich farmland, the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge and part of the Big Thicket National Preserve.
Two U.S. highways and four state highways crisscross the county, and the area is home to both farming communities and Houston commuters. Hurricane Ike hammered the area’s timber industry in 2008, and between 2015 and 2016 the county battled five major floods. Recognizing the need to prepare for weather disasters and manageable growth, in 2016 residents of Liberty’s 18 communities partnered with Texas Target Communities (TTC) at Texas A&M University to create the first county-wide comprehensive plan.
The plan is a 20-year roadmap for additional floodplains, channeling development away from harm’s way, improving transit for Houston commuters and even tackling social issues. TTC is a service learning program and university-wide community engagement initiative of the College of Architecture, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the Public Partnership & Outreach at Texas A&M University.
Created by county stakeholders and TTC, the Liberty County Strategic Plan was recently awarded the American Planning Association’s (APA) Silver National Planning Achievement Award for Resilience Planning. The recognition marks one of the few times a university has been recognized nationally with a planning award and highlights the quality of TTC’s planning efforts by a team of students, faculty and staff at Texas A&M.
“Creating a county-wide plan was a bold planning decision, bringing all of the communities together for a common goal,” said Wendy Shabay, AICP, APA’s 2019 Awards Jury Chair. “The strong community engagement, including tapping youth residents as storytellers, demonstrates how multiple municipalities can work together.”
While some strategic plans are more narrowly focused, the Liberty County plan brought dozens of Texas A&M University faculty, staff and students together with county residents to comprehensively plan for two decades of advancements in disaster mitigation, land and economic development, transportation, community facilities, open spaces and even social issues.
“The residents of Liberty County worked with us extensively to preserve the uniqueness of their communities while planning for inevitable weather events and the population growth throughout the region,” said TTC Director Dr. John Cooper. “The plan’s Silver Award from the APA is a recognition of the vision county residents had to plan broadly, intentionally and with an eye toward protecting and improving their communities. We were honored to assist with the plan.”
Read the full 2016-2046 Liberty County Strategic Plan here.
About Texas Target Communities
Founded in 1980, Texas Target Communities is a service learning program and university-wide community engagement initiative of the Provost’s Public Partnership & Outreach Office and the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. The program provides opportunities for faculty and students to work alongside local governments and community stakeholders to assist small, under-served communities in creating sustainable futures throughout Texas.
TTC’s work would not be possible without the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and the Texas A&M Institute for Sustainable Communities. Other collaborating programs and agencies include Texas Sea Grant, the Texas Rural Leadership Program, the Texas A&M Center for Heritage Conservation, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association and the American Planning Association.