Texas’ newest state park, and the last of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) three World Birding Center sites, opens this Saturday in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Resaca de la Palma State Park near Brownsville will host a grand opening celebration Dec. 5, though it opened quietly months ago. The 1,200-acre park near the southernmost tip of Texas is the largest of the nine sites that comprise the World Birding Center, a project begun by TPWD in partnership with local communities a decade ago, now nearing final fruition. South Padre Island Birding and 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 (there is no overnight camping), 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. Like Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, Resaca visitors must park at the visitor center and walk, bicycle or take the free tram into the park. The park’s centerpiece is a restored resaca (an ancient coil of a river bed once filled by Rio Grande floodwaters), but it also includes marshes, dense thorn-scrub, and mature palm and ebony forests. The new state park was made possible in large part by increased funding provided by the Texas Legislature in 2007, which helps pays the salaries of 14 full-time and part-time employees, among other expenses. Interpreting the park story for the visiting public is a major focus, with staff and exhibits, trails and observation decks, guided tours and other activities, all designed to teach visitors about the area’s unique natural and cultural resources.