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TEXAS STATE PARKS

Natural Economic Assets

Beach Combing at Mustang Island State Park in Nueces County, Texas

STATE PARK PROFILES

Mustang Island State Park
Nueces County

Gulf Coast Region

Nestled between the cities of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, Mustang Island State Park encompasses 4,000 acres and almost five miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The land was acquired by the state during the early 1970s, but the park facilities were built and opened to the public in 1979. The island was named after the horses that were brought to the island by Spaniards, and was first called Wild Horse Island then Mustang Island after the mesteños (wild horses). The Karankawa Indians were the first known inhabitants of the island and lived there until the 19th century.

Mustang Island State Park encompasses 4,000 acres and almost five miles
of beach on the
Gulf of Mexico.

Mustang Island State Park is situated uniquely between Corpus Christi Bay and the Gulf of Mexico and offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors enjoy camping, swimming, fishing, picnicking, surfing, sunbathing, hiking, mountain biking and outstanding birding.1 Also popular: kayaking on the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail, which follows the western shoreline of the island in the Corpus Christi Bay.

Three paddling trails make up the Mustang Island State Park Paddling Trail. These are the North Trail (8.5 miles), the Ashum Trail (6.8 miles) and the Shamrock Loop Trail (5.24 miles). Collectively, all three trails offer more than 20 miles of natural habitat for observing various species of birds, armadillos and small mammals. Flounder, black drum, redfish and spotted sea trout offer numerous fishing opportunities to those on the trails.2

Facilities at the park include 48 guest sites with water and electricity hookups while offering capacity for an additional 300 primitive camping units. Four host sites are available to park host volunteers, who are often “Winter Texans.”

Mustang Island State Park Superintendent Damon Reeves explains that because the park is situated on a coastal barrier island, careful consideration is given to managing large numbers of visitors while preserving the unique ecosystem. Park employees do not manipulate the vegetation and sand dunes in an effort to keep the landscape as natural as possible. Reeves pointed out that manmade improvements or manipulating the natural landscape of any ecosystem can have unintended, negative consequences.

The emphasis on keeping the park as natural as possible has also resulted in a new type of visitor. Eco-tourism, or nature-based tourism, is becoming more popular, and Mustang Island State Park has seen an increase in this type of visitor. The park interpreter and other staff now offer interpretive ecological tours on request.

Beach Camping in Mustang Island State Park in Nueces County, Texas

Reeves has also noticed that the traditional visitor to the park has changed increasingly as well. Park employees have noticed that many of the visitors to the park are increasingly local, from Corpus Christi or the Coastal Bend regions. They speculated that higher gas prices have forced some to look for vacation options that are closer to where they live.3

Bud Harris, interim president and chief executive officer of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, feels that the park has a positive effect on his local population. He says the park and the city and state roads leading to it are high-traffic areas and provide access points for a beach destination. Harris says the park is providing a recreational service to city residents, even though the city has its own beaches. The City of Corpus Christi established a fire station right next to the park to provide fire protection services primarily to city residents, but it also can very easily be used to respond to emergencies at the park.

The city also provides police officers to patrol outlying areas of the park and helps maintain some of the roadways leading to park land. Harris says the park has a positive effect on property values and is an asset to the area. Reeves notes that convenience stores and other retail stores from the JFK Causeway to State Highway 361 are frequently busy with lines of patrons, which contribute to sales tax revenue to the city and the state. Reeves also points out that Mustang Island State Park has an intangible value in that the park provides the last natural section of the Texas barrier island with access to the beach that the general public can use.4

Eco-tourism, or nature-based tourism, is becoming more popular, and Mustang Island State Park has seen an increase in this type of visitor.

On the other side of the park, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce executive director, Ann Vaughn, says the park has had a positive effect on the local economy as well as the aesthetic beauty of the area. Visitors who stay at the park will frequently travel to Port Aransas to shop for groceries, souvenirs and other necessities.

Vaughn points out that there is only a finite amount of land on the island and even less available beachfront property. The value of the park land is substantial, but the cost to society of losing the last public park, beach and campsite on Mustang Island would be significant as well. However, Vaughn says the park’s value could be enhanced.

“The park is a jewel in the rough because so much more could be done to invest in additional amenities to the park,” she says, adding that additional lodging facilities as well as other amenities could attract more people to visit the park.5

Mustang Island State Park contributed $3,653,707 in sales and $2,016,781 in personal income
to Nueces County
in 2006.

Mustang Island State Park developed a master plan to help guide future improvements to the park, but at the time of this writing, no improvements had been scheduled.

Fiscal 2007 expenditures for operations, minor repairs and staff salaries at the park were $490,445. Against revenues of $470,847, the park reported a net loss of $19,598.6

A study conducted by John Crompton and Juddson Culpepper of Texas A&M University found that Mustang Island State Park contributed $3,653,707 in sales and $2,016,781 in personal income to Nueces County in 2006. The park also created 66.4 jobs and generated $18,269 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year.7

Summary Economic Impacts
Mustang Island State Park, Nueces County

2006 County Sales 2006 County Resident Income 2006 County Employment (Full-Time Equivalent) 2006 County Sales Tax Generated
$3,653,707 $2,016,781 66.4 $18,269

Source: Texas A&M University.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)

Revenues Operating Expenses* Net Income
$470,847 $490,445 ($19,598)

* Includes salaries, operating expenses and minor (non-capital) repair.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Endnotes

  • 1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Mustang Island State Park,” pp. 1-2, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/mustang_island/. (Last visited August 22, 2008.)
  • 2 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Mustang Island Paddling Trail,” pp. 1,3-4, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/coastal/mustang_island/. (Last visited July 23, 2008.)
  • 3 Interview with Damon Reeves, Mustang Island State Park superintendent, Corpus Christi, Texas, July 14, 2008.
  • 4 Interview with Bud Harris, interim president and chief executive officer of the Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, Corpus Christi, Texas, July 22, 2008.
  • 5 Interview with Ann Vaughn, executive director, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce, Port Aransas, Texas, July 23, 2008.
  • 6 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Revenue Less Operating Costs, FY 2006-2007,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations. Amounts may not total due to rounding.
  • 7Texas Coalition for Conservation, The Economic Contributions of Texas State Parks in FY 2006, by John L. Crompton and Juddson Culpepper, Texas A&M University, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences (Austin, Texas, December 2006), http://rptsweb.tamu.edu/faculty/Crompton/Crompton/Articles/3.10.pdf. (Last visited August 25, 2008.)
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