Hitchcock’s year-long partnership with a Texas A&M University program that aims to study the city’s social and physical vulnerabilities and give officials some possible ways to address them will see its first batch of results this week.
Three projects from the partnership pairs the university’s Texas Target Communities program with city officials, community organizers and Hitchcock residents to create a number of plans that highlight problem areas the city should address. The projects will be finished today.
The three projects, which focused on flooding in Hitchcock, preserving the city’s historical buildings and a general status of the community report, are part of a larger group of proposals that will be finished later next year.
“The city of Hitchcock contacted us last spring and expressed its interest in participating,” Jaimie Masterson, associate director of the Texas Target Communities, said. “What’s gotten done so far has been quite productive and depending on what the city does with it could be quite useful.”
The plans that will be completed today were the result of students and university experts meeting with community members and city officials, Masterson said. They’ll be turned over to the city next year, after the spring semester’s students further explore the research. More than 150 students took part in the program, and 13 groups worked on proposals that will ultimately be published and given to the city, Masterson said.
The city of Hitchcock budgeted $30,000 for the program last year. Previous cities the program has focused on include Nolanville, in Bell County, and Liberty, in Liberty County.
The new proposals focused on the city’s most vulnerable residents, Masterson said. For example, the plan that zeroes in on flooding in Hitchcock, spearheaded by Texas A&M University at Galveston graduate student Abbey Hotard, examined low-income areas of the city that are most susceptible to a combination of sea level rise and storm surge.
The areas of the city the program looked at, including neighborhoods near Highland and Marchand bayous, will need structural improvements to make it through the next big storm, said David Retchless, a professor at the university who helped to oversee the Hitchcock flood hazard plan.
“These areas are highly vulnerable and worth investing resources into,” said Retchless. “The research found that there are some blocks that are highly socially vulnerable to flooding hazards, based on a large part of the population being under 18 and over 65, a large number of single-mother households, a majority of people who rent, and a majority of families with an income that’s less than poverty level.”
The other plans that will be finished today look at the general outlook and state of the community and also historical building preservation in Hitchcock. The general plan will be used as a baseline for the plans that students put together next semester, Masterson said. The historical building preservation proposal, meanwhile, used laser mapping technology to survey the conditions of historical buildings, Masterson said.
“All of this work can be used by the city when it’s planning growth and zoning in the future,” she said. “That’s the goal of the program, to create a vision that people can use.”