Nature preserve due more work with next phase
The city is scheduled to stop accepting bids today, Thursday, Sept. 9, for tens of thousands of dollars worth of improvements at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture.
The city council is expected to award a bid when the council meets on Thursday, Sept. 16. The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at council chambers, 710 W. Ave. A.
The bid winner will start Phase Two of work on the preserve. It will be a $596,000 project, funded partly by a $299,700 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to Deputy City Manager Dave Parsons. The remainder will be funded by certificates of obligation approved by the city council in 2003, Parsons said.
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, State Hwy. 361 and Piper Channel.
The acreage has been called Charlie’s Pasture for decades because it was leased in the 1940s and ‘50s by rancher Charlie Bujan, for grazing cattle. Bujan, who died in 1970, was the father of Port Aransas City Councilman Charles Bujan.
The preserve opened to the public in December last year after Phase One of work was largely completed.
Phase One included extension of the paved portion of Port Avenue, construction of a pavilion and building a crushed granite trail and boardwalk totaling about a mile in length. In addition, workers built an observation tower on a patch of land known as Salt Island and constructed a 3,300-foot concrete hike-and-bike trail that branches off a trail at Port Aransas Community Park and runs to the preserve’s pavilion.
Phase One also included restroom facilities, shade structures over wooden benches and tables and extensive fencing to prevent motorized vehicles from entering the preserve.
Phase Two will include construction of a new road that will begin at State Hwy. 361 at a point just south of Sharkey’s Beach Club and extend 600 feet west, allowing access to the east side of the preserve.
At the end of the road will be a shade structure, interpretive nature signs and the beginning of a trail extending 4,000 feet into the preserve. The trail will be alternately boardwalks over wetlands and decomposed granite over higher ground.
The boardwalks will stand over saltwater tidal flats and areas of fresh water.
The trail in Phase Two won’t connect with Phase One’s trail and boardwalk, but instead will end at Ross Avenue, near the city transfer station, also known as the dump.
The city is planning a future trail that will connect with the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Parsons said.
Phase Two also will include a vehicular barrier fence that extends along the eastern edge of the nature preserve, running parallel to State Hwy. 361, about 600 feet off the highway.
Phase Two will take visitors into parts of the preserve that weren’t previously accessible, at least not easily, by foot. Some of it is habitat for endangered species including the piping plover, according to Charlie Zahn, chairman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.
Access to some of the habitat will be only by natural trails and by guided tour, during certain times of year, when it’s not a critical nesting period, Zahn said. Even giving people limited access to the area will help make the nature preserve a stronger attraction, he said.
“I think that will make Port Aransas even more of a destination point than it already is, especially considering that nature tourism is the fastest-growing facet of tourism in the state,” Zahn said.
Work on Phase Two likely will begin in late October and last for about a year, Parsons said. Urban Engineering will be the design engineer.