WESLACO – Metal and wooden beams, a towering entrance and a back patio awaiting a roof of live grasses and plants sit among construction walkways and material piles at Weslaco’s Valley Nature Center.
By mid-January, the center should have its new 8,300-square-foot facility complete and filled with displays to include a full-sized replica of a tree growing up to the ceiling and a riverbank cut-out of the Rio Grande.
“It will be able to allow us to interpret the regional ecology here much better for the people who visit,” said center Executive Director Martin Hagne.
The $1.2 million project weds a state grant, center fundraising, money from businesses — including AEP Texas and HEB — and money from the City of Weslaco and its Economic Development Corp. to more than double the space at the center’s 301 S. Border Ave. home.
The city came perilously close to losing a $400,000 grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife to complete the project. The build was extended twice and on its last extension needed to be complete by the end of July to receive the funding.
But after construction began in May and the state monitored its progress, the office released the money in July, said Assistant Public Facilities Director Erasmo Lozano.
“We talked to the state and they said ‘We’ll work with you, send us monthly reports,’” Lozano said.
The city has long worked closely with the nature center, providing site maintenance and facilities costs. It has contributed $500,000 to the build, while the development corporation agreed to fund $250,000 last spring when cost estimates rose.
The new building will have an extra classroom and display space in a mostly open floor plan. The facility it’s replacing will be torn down and its foundation used as a plant nursery.
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Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (956) 683-4428.