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Resaca de la Palma State Park Opens Near Brownsville

Resaca de la Palma State Park

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Resaca de la Palma State Park — Texas’ newest state park and the eighth link in the World Birding Center chain stretching the breadth of the Lower Rio Grande Valley — held a grand opening celebration this past December. The new park was made possible in part with increased funding provided by the Texas Legislature.

The 1,200-acre park near the southernmost tip of Texas is the largest of the nine sites that comprise the World Birding Center that stretches some 120 miles along the wildlife-rich Rio Grande corridor from Roma to South Padre Island.

South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center, the final wing of the WBC, is under construction and slated to open in spring 2009. The other World Birding Center sites are: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park (WBC headquarters), Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande State Park (Weslaco), Harlingen’s Arroyo Colorado, Old Hidalgo Pump House, Quinta Mazatlan (McAllen) and Roma Bluffs.

Not a state park in the traditional sense, Resaca de la Palma caters to bird watchers, butterfly enthusiasts and other nature lovers who seek an up-close view of wildlife in a natural setting that includes a restored resaca (an ancient coil of a river bed once filled by Rio Grande floodwaters), marshes, dense thorn-scrub, and mature palm and ebony forests. The park includes five types of habitat: Tamaulipan thornscrub, ebony-anacua forest, sugar hackberry woodlands, revegetated grasslands and the resaca wetlands.

"Resaca de la Palma’s most significant habitat is the six-mile resaca that winds through the park," said Pablo de Yturbe, park superintendent. "Our park staff worked for many months to clear the old channel to get it ready to refill. We started pumping water into the resaca in July of 2008."

This day-use park has four observation decks, a picnic area, visitor center, interpretation hall and numerous trails, some of which are handicapped accessible. There are more than 8 miles of dirt hiking trails, including a half-mile trail that is compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and a paved 3.5-mile loop traveled by a tram that makes two stops.

Resaca de la Palma attracts more than 250 species of birds due to its diverse habitats, its location along two American migratory flyways and its proximity to Mexico and Central America, some of whose bird species range only as far north in the United States as Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Visitors can expect to see a number of colorful species such as the summer tanager, American redstart, green jay and Altamira oriole, as well as the black-bellied whistling duck, groove-billed ani, olive sparrow, and a host of migrating waterfowl.

The opening of the new state park results in part from increased funding provided by the Texas Legislature in 2007 that pays the salaries of 14 full-time and part-time employees, including tram drivers, maintenance assistants, park interpreters and a natural resource specialist. For 2008, the state’s newest wing of the WBC received an $82,000 budget increase. In addition, increased funding provided $28,000 in concession funds to stock the State Park Store with merchandise.

Park visitors must park at the visitor center and walk, bicycle or take the park’s tram into the park. The tram ride is included in the required entrance fee and visitors can rent binoculars, bicycles and tricycles for an additional daily fee.

Resaca de la Palma, 1000 New Carmen Blvd., will have bird walks on Saturday mornings, nature walks on Wednesday mornings and occasional bike tours. For more information, call the park at (956) 350-2920 or see the park Web page.

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