|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - November 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
BY VALERIE REDDELL
COLDSPRING — Developers of the EarthQuest Institute and EarthQuest Adventure theme park will be in Coldspring Thursday, Nov. 11, to share plans for the $500 million Disneystyle entertainment complex adjacent to U.S. 59 in New Caney. “What we have put together is a model for educating the public in a fun and exciting way about the future of our planet,” said Dr. Matt Gardner, chief science officer for EarthQuest. EarthQuest will be a unique theme park resort complex featuring rides, a water park, animal park, a “green gadget garage” and a hotel and conference center. The site will also be home to a nonprofit science and technology learning center focused on ecological topics. Approximately 500 acres of the 1,600-acre site will house the theme park. The project started with a dinosaur park concept, but has evolved into more of an ecological theme. “While dinosaurs are cool, what people are interested in is energy and the environment,” Gardner said. “People want to figure out a way to live on the planet that makes sense for them and the planet — a way to meet their wants, needs and creature comforts that makes sense on all fronts. That’s the mission of EarthQuest. It’s not political, not controversial. It’s going to be fun.” The program Nov. 11 — which will be hosted by Pro Star Waste and the Coldspring- San Jacinto County Chamber of Commerce — will focus on how local businesses and residents can have a role in the project, according to Gardner. EarthQuest remains in a fund-raising mode, but they are confident the project will be built on the Montgomery County site. “I can’t imagine a set of circumstances under which that would change,” Gardner said. The sluggish economy has slowed down capital fundraising. “We’ve been keeping a low profile during this tough economy, while the capital market has been slow,” Gardner said. “This project is going to get built and there’s going to be opportunities for local businesses to either have a presence on the site or a sponsorship role,” Gardner said. “The main purpose of our visit is just to provide information and get people up to speed.” The development team includes former Disney executive Chris Brown, president of Contour Entertainment and developer Don Lessem (AKA Dino Don). Houston’s status as an energy capital and the 18 million residents that live within the region helped draw developers to the area. When Astroworld closed five years ago, Houston became the only one of the top 11 cities in the United States without a theme park. Organizers have invested $30 million to secure the land and develop schematic drawings. The project has secured $7.5 million in bonds through the East Montgomery County Improvement District, which is funded by a 1.5 cent sales tax. The resort is expected to create 1,200 jobs. Development is planned over three phases including a “land zone,” “water zone” and a research and information area that will allow researchers a means to disseminate their findings and develop technologies for testing. The presentation by EarthQuest Institute will begin at noon Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Jones Auditorium at the old Coldspring school northeast of the San Jacinto County Courthouse. Seating is limited to 200 on a first come, first served basis.