Special to the PRESS
One of the greatest things as coastal lovers and advocates we can do is to pass on our enjoyment and knowledge of what our Lower Laguna Madre area can offer to us and instill in future generations the importance of preserving and protecting these resources. My parents did this probably in a very unintentional way when I was young by spending summers in a small Holiday Rambler trailer in Isla Blanca Park and then in our small one bedroom condo at Gulf View. We spent our days on the beaches and in the huge dunes where Schlitterbahn now resides. When not on the beach, we were “bay walking” with cast nets and exploring the Laguna Madre side of South Padre Island. We also spent many days and nights fishing the bay and the Gulf and setting crab traps. When I got older and I started to learn how to surf that appreciation of what the area has to offer both recreationally and educationally grew even more. That is what made me who I am today and I appreciate every moment of it and try to pass this on to my sons.
On Thursday, May 7th, the City of South Padre Island held its first Coastal Days event at the Hilton Garden Inn with the 4th and 5th graders from Garriga Elementary. Coastal Resources Administrator Reuben Treviño, Mary K. Hancock and Intern Shelby Bessette got together with Mayor Barry Patel and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Office out of Brownsville and provided a ton of fun and educational activities for the students. These activities included cast netting instruction, casting instruction where students could cast for plastic fish and catch them, skull identification stations, a microscope station provided by UTB Graduate Students for kids to look at and indentify plankton, touch tanks, an educational booth provided by Sea Turtle, Inc., and a beach cleanup and a small dune restoration planting. SPI Beach patrol was also there to educate the students on beach safety and SPI Litter Patrol helped educate the children on the importance of not trashing our beaches. It was an amazing opportunity for the youngsters and they seemed to enjoy it thoroughly, probably as much as the volunteers and teachers who helped out.
This event being held was important in many ways. It succeeded in getting the students engaged. It provided a fun way of learning that kept the children active as they moved through the different stations and got them excited about our coast instead of just killing time at the end of the school year by showing movies and going on pointless field trips just to count the days until summer. It also, through the hard work of Shelby, Reuben, Mary K. and Melinda from TPW, provided the foundation for a partnership between the City and State to work together in coastal education. This platform isn’t the usual going into schools with a PowerPoint presentations loaded with dire pictures of trash on our beaches, sick birds and sea life that the students will tune out to, but showed them the fun of the beach and bay and why it is important to protect them.
In my opinion, this is a program that the City of South Padre Island should expand in the coming years through Coastal Management Program Grants and other funding sources and offer it to other school districts in Brownsville, Los Fresnos and Harlingen. We constantly complain about how our beaches are treated by our local and non-local visitors and the knee jerk reaction is to clamp down and increase fines and enforcement. I’ve been and still am that person. However, educating our children at a young age, while a long term investment, is the real key. These will be the stewards that take over when we are gone. These are the children that will go home at the end of the day and educate their parents. These are the future coastal lovers and advocates that will help protect and preserve our unbelievably beautiful Lower Laguna Madre region.
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