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South Padre’s World Birding Center Receives $1 Million
AUSTIN — Christmas came early for the City of South Padre Island, which received the go-ahead today from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to receive a $1 million grant to develop the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
The commission directed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to allocate the $1 million in matching funds to develop the South Padre Island site of the World Birding Center, one of nine sites stretching from the northern end of South Padre Island, through the Rio Grande Valley to the westernmost WBC site in Roma.
The total estimated cost of the South Padre Island project is $6 million. The city is providing a local match consisting of local bond funds, Economic Development Board funds, donations, Coastal Management Program grants funds and pledges, according to Tim Hogsett, director of the TPWD’s parks grant program.
“Through this $1,000,000, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission continues to positively recognize the tremendous impact nature tourism is having on our state,” said Dan Quandt, director of the South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center will attract experts and novices alike, educating all on the tremendous variety of natural opportunities found on South Padre Island and throughout South Texas.”
The City of South Padre Island proposes to construct a 4,500 square foot Visitors Center on Laguna Madre Bay on a 7.5-acre tract of the island’s World Birding Center. The building would serve as an interpretive center and nature education facility. The facility will connect with the existing Laguna Madre Nature Trail, increasing the boardwalks by roughly 3,600 feet and adding five bird blinds. The boardwalks will provide access to the wetlands and shoreline for up-close wildlife viewing.
The center will include a wave tank, bay aquarium and exhibits showing a stratified cross-section of the island and explaining the history of South Padre Island, the Gulf of Mexico and migration habits of turtles and birds. Exhibits also will feature the geology, anthropology and natural history of the area, as well as the island’s many indigenous marine, terrestrial and avian wildlife. There also will be a 60-foot-tall wildlife observation tower offering 360-degree views of Laguna Madre and the Gulf of Mexico.
The 79th Legislature, in a rider, to the department’s general appropriation, directed TPWD to allocate up $1 million in matching funds for the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.
Such funding is authorized by the 1993 Texas Recreation and Parks Account Program to assist local political subdivisions of the state in providing basic public recreation facilities. TRPA revenue is generated from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods.
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