Wednesday, June 06, 2007

my last word on the birding center thing

I went to the Birding/Nature Center workshop the other day and was totally impressed with:

- Kirk’s silence
- Tara’s great questions - to which she did not get straight answers but maybe I was the only one who noticed ...? (I believe she asked about maintenance costs down the road and how they were going to be paid for and Mr. Franke mumbled something about a $350,000 grant that we have a “really good chance of getting.” She smiled and nodded like that was a perfectly good answer.)
- All the happiness and enthusiasm for the proposed “world class” facility -- hey! The town is really coming together over this thing!

Totally impressed -- in a disappointed sort of way. Because I can see it all now:
Contractors will tear up and rip out the native habitat, build a hugely expensive building too close to the wetlands and chucky jam full of wooly mammoths and other exhibits that have nothing to do with South Padre Island -- all the while incurring no risk or financial responsibility to the town -- the Birding Center Fairy is going to come down and bless us with this “world class” facility just because we are such gosh darn nice people and we deserve it! (I am still not clear on who is going to pay for it but was reassured over and over again that it certainly won’t be me.)

And I learned that we don’t have to worry about future beach re-nourishment either! The state of Texas is always going to be there to renourish our beaches because it is their land and yes, they kinda fell short the past decade or so but all is forgiven and we can be absolutely certain that they will be there to rescue us when our expensive properties start falling into the Gulf as a result of poor planning or global warming or whatever.

So many happy people at that workshop -- and warm fuzzies all around!

And so the line between real nature and a tribute to nature gets ever blurrier, and no one even notices when the birds stop coming because their habitat has been paved over and completely replaced with a tidy, sanitized version of what used to be wild and free here. And eventually no one will even notice the difference, or remember what was lost.

Atlantis vs. Elbow key.
Nature just isn’t very interesting all by itself, is it?

Except, it really is.
I have been working on a mermaid sculpture at the Sea LIfe Center in Port Isabel -- a small, homey operation which is being run on a shoestring budget by folks who do it because they really & truly love the native critters and want to share and inspire that love in others. You are allowed to handle some of the animals in the exhibits, but most are “just to look at” and - due to the location of my workspace - I get to hear constant exclamations from kids of all ages, “Look at the mama scorpion with all her babies on her back!” They don’t seem to mind that there is nothing to touch, spin, poke at, no blinking lights or whistles or bells. Just an amazing bit of nature that will eventually be returned to the wild to go about its business -- after it teaches us a small lesson about anthropodal motherly love.

I got an email from Mayor Pinkerton today detailing some of the history behind Clayton’s land and the ongoing negotiations. It was nice of him to take the time to write me and I appreciated it because I try not to blather on in ignorance. If I understand him correctly, acquiring Clayton’s land would basically cost the town some 4.3 million - about half of which would actually be a trade for property that the city bought for $750,000 but has recently been appraised at 2.2 million.
That sounds like a deal to me. It’s a huge chunk of land! Buy all those acres and keep them just the way they are.... forever! But with trails and blinds and maybe a boat ramp and other stuff that birders and naturalists and kayakers would appreciate. I can see a nature boardwalk extending from Sea Turtle Inc. to a 2 million dollar birding center facility that doesn’t try to be Disneyland, the Exploritorium and Atlantis all rolled up in one slick package but does a fine job of engaging us in the birds and animals and plants we will see when we stroll through the preserve.

Mr. Mayor, I still think that buying that land would be the absolute best way to spend all that money that the Birding Center Fairies seem bent on giving us.
But I am clearly in the minority on this, so I will just shut up now.


Blogger Sam said...

Naw, Sandy Feet, stay with your convictions and suggestions. I had to withdraw from the issue because I was fence sitting on both sides and got stuck with my panties in a wad. You know the old saying, where an advisor to the President says "one one hand ... on the other hand" and the answer was "can we just cut one of your hands off please?"

I'm sure some native habitat would be great and I'd support that, as well as maybe a vision for attracting a few visitors on this here package deal, but let me tell you what I discussed with a few of the Aldermen - and no names please and yes I'm paraphrasing very liberally.

I said I had a vision to create a virtual Mecca for the Spring and Fall bird and butterfly migrations. Loss of lands for all those migrating birds and critters is a huge problem on this island. I explained how the Warbler is the Holy Grail for birders and some exotic tropical species, if located in the migration, could draw people from as far away as Europe or New Zealand. I'm serious, one couple flew from overseas just to the ONE DAMN BIRD up by Kennedy Ranch - and yes, they got their picture.

The trouble is that many of the migratory birds don't like the swamps and prefer woody, brushy areas such as with Tepaguaje, Australian Pine, Huisache, and other dryland stuff. Heck they even love the despised Brazilian Pepperwood, an invasive species.

So I explained that and reversed my course a few times and dropped out because the issue was bringing too many heated emails and hurt feelings. I still think we should talk with Scarlett Colley and folks like that about how to get that vision for a "Mecca" for viewing migratory birds.

Hey Im not perfect ... but I remember the days when you could go to Yellowstone Park and they sold feed for 25 cents like for chipmunks and all. They'd hear that quarter drop and the nuts fall down and darn near come running up your pants legs to beg. I agree there's a little twang of Disneyworld in all of this. /Sam

7:51 PM  

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