Zapata, Texas

In February, 2009, participants from Zapata County along the Rio Grande convened at a private ranch outside the town of Zapata to wrestle with issues of community building, gateways, streetscapes, zoning, and design guidelines. Zapata County is the first unincorporated county in Texas to receive authority to develop zoning and other ordinances. The county is very rural, with a total population of about 15,000; its economy is largely dependent on ranching and natural gas. Jeff Speck, former NEA Director of Design, was the keynote speaker. Jeff stayed throughout workshop to inform and facilitate the proceedings. John LaMotte of The Lakota Group spoke about design and development issues and assisted Jeff in wrapping up the workshop. Richard Tangum of the University of Texas, San Antonio, also contributed design expertise throughout. 

The principal outcome of the workshop was a blueprint of clear steps for the County to follow to implement the existing Vision Plan and the zoning and design guidelines. The River Pierce Foundation, one of the major sponsors of the workshop, has received a $30,000 grant from the National Park Service to conduct a Historic Structures Report (HSR) on the Trevino Fort in San Ignacio on the Rio Grande. This historic village is a National Register district with more than 100 contributing buildings and one of the few remaining ranching outposts in the region. The HSR will guide the restoration work that will be funded by the Brown Foundation and the Save America’s Treasures program.

-Excerpted from Your Town: Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, Update, Fall, 2009