Wetlands center at MSI to open here Saturday afternoon
The center, at The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), is a man-made 3.6-acre salt marsh and sand dune complex designed for outreach and education.
The opening of the center represents federal, state and county grants, contributions from the university and private donations. More than 13 years and $4.4 million have gone into its creation. The first grant was received from the Texas General Land Office in 1995.
The center, designed by Corpus Christi architect David Richter, is the vision of Dr. Rick Tinnin, director of marine education at the institute and the education coordinator for the Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. His programs reach more than 40,000 people a year and include marine education for visiting schools, teachers and Elderhostel groups.
The programs, which Tinnin calls "K through gray," often include trips aboard the institute's research vessel Katy. However, university rules limit those excursions to people older than 10. The new center will allow younger students a chance to see marsh creatures up close and will also eliminate trips to nearby wetlands, which frequently involved a wait in the ferry line.
It includes a shallow-water inlet with water exchange between the ship channel on one end and the UTMSI marina on the other end. Typical marsh grasses and other plants grow along the edges of the water and up onto the banks. Islands in the center provide shelter for shorebirds. And a boardwalk with carefully-chosen viewing locations circles the entire center, which is between the UTMSI Visitors' Center and the south jetty.
Visitors to programs are accommodated by bleachers set into the side of a sand dune. Researchers can go out onto piers built into the water and get virtually face-to-face with the life they're trying to learn more about.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will be attended by Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, Dean of the U.T. College of Natural Sciences; George Cathcart, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the UTMSI Advisory Council and local officials.
The site is ADA compliant and will give students and visitors alike a handson experience in wetlands, complete with informational signs.