Stimulus funding would be boost for nature preserve
The federal economic stimulus bill could be especially stimulating for the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie's Pasture.
The City of Port Aransas is applying for a $2.2 million grant of stimulus funds available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. If the city gets the grant, it would fund phases two and three of the nature preserve, completing all the trails, observation towers and other features planned for the preserve, said David Parsons, planning and projects manager for the City of Port Aransas.
The 1,217-acre preserve lies on undeveloped land in an area long known as Charlie's Pasture, generally between the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, Port Aransas Community Park and Piper Channel.
Phase One of the work just got underway earlier this year. It's being done with $1.2 million from $2.2 million in city certificates of obligation. A $300,000 NOAA grant won last year also is helping finance Phase One.
The city has about $600,000 left over from the certificates of obligation that can be devoted toward phases two and three. The omnibus bill signed into law by President Obama March 11 also included $300,000 for the second two phases of the project.
Grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also have boosted nature preserve work.
Still, the city does not have enough money to complete phases two and three - unless the $2.2 million NOAA grant comes through.
The Phase One work includes extending Port Street, building a visitors center - an open-air pavilion that's about 1,300 square feet in size.
Phase One also means constructing a board walk and trail from the visitors center to Salt Island, a small piece of land surrounded by wetlands. A boardwalk will be built across the wetlands to the island, and a viewing tower will be built on the island.
Phase One also will include a vehicle barrier fence that will run along Ross Avenue, around the edge of Port Aransas Community Park and along Port Street.
Phases two and three will include hike and bike trails, pedestrian trails, a primitive camping area and observation areas.
The phases also will include three new park entries: One just beyond the transfer station, another off Paradise Point Road and another off State Hwy. 361, just past Sharkey's Beach Club.
The city is seeking the $2.2 million grant from a $170 million fund, all of it stimulus money, in NOAA's Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Project.
Asked what the odds are that Port Aransas will win the grant, Parsons said, "We think we have a fairly good chance, but it's not a slam-dunk."
The city should know whether it won the grant by May 1, Parsons said.
Contractors involved in the nature preserve include Land Design Partners, a landscape architecture firm in Austin; Gignac Architects of Corpus Christi; Island Construction of Port Aransas; and Urban Engineering, a civil engineering firm headquartered in Corpus Christi. Also involved is Randy Thompson, a Corpus Christi-based engineer who prepared and made applications for Corps of Engineers permits.