November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 41

Assessing the effects of the Deepwater disaster
W h en oi l f rom B r i tish P et rol eu m ' s ex ploded dr i l l i ng pl at for m
first washed up on the shores of Grand Isle State Park, Tamara Augustine
was just getting ready for work when her office called. Augustine had
been its manager for just over a year, a peaceful and predictable period.
She would be the first to say that nothing in her training or policy prepared her for the message from her office that morning. " I came on in 9
a.m. and went out on the beach as the first waves of oil were washing in. "
What should have been waves colored in shades
of aquamarine lapping up on the mile-long beach
instead reminded Augustine of a brownie mix-
brown, red, and thick-washing up in globs from
the size of pancakes to five-feet in diameter. From
that day forward through August, the oily mix, carried from BP's Macondo well by swift Gulf currents,
would wash ashore for days at a time, subside, and
then resume their onslaught. Depending on such
currents and geographic luck, the scene was repeated time and again along 678 miles of Gulf
shoreline. Grand Isle State Park may have been the
park at the eye of this petroleum storm, but parks
and wildlife refuges from Texas east to Florida in
one way or another could not escape the effects of
the largest oil spill in U.S. history. In the following interviews, park administrators assess the short- and
long-term effects of the Deepwater disaster.
With a potential yield of nearly 45 billion barrels,
the Gulf of Mexico has become a modern day gold
rush, where instead of '49er-style mines, thousands
of drilling and refinery platforms dot the northern
portion of the Gulf, many visible from the shoreline.
Rising oil prices in the 1990s made it profitable for oil
companies to tap reserves father out, from depths of
more than a mile beneath the surface with complex,
sophisticated drilling and extraction methods. Never fully safe (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed
more than 100 rigs, leading to a cleanup of nearly
eight million gallons of oil-only three million less
than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska), these
floating rigs are supposed to have redundant safety

	

devises to prevent what happened in April. At the
$560 million Deepwater Horizon rig, blow-out preventers failed when a gas build-up exploded in a
massive fireball that ignited a chain of events that
would impact parks and wildlife refuges from Texas
to Florida, not to mention the Gulf's massive fisheries industry. As word spread about oil washing up on
the Gulf's pristine beaches, the fragile link between
tourism and park attendance and vital fees revenue
quickly became apparent. Not until the Macondo
well at the site of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig
was finally capped could park administrators even
begin to gauge the impact on their parks.
Tamara Augustine

Brianna Augustine-Meredith

www.NRPA .ORG

No v e m b e r 2 0 1 0

Parks & Recreation	 39



November 2010 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of November 2010 - Parks & Recreation

November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 1
November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 2
November 2010 - Parks & Recreation - 3
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