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Creating Habitat: RGV Reef Project gearing up for second phase

Out in the Gulf of Mexico, an area that was once bare and described as being as flat as a pancake has transformed into a flourishing artificial reef created from deployed boats, vessels, concrete rail ties and massive cinder blocks.

For the past several years, Friends of RGV Reef has been creating graduating stepping stones of reef habitat to provide shelter and aid to fish populations along their lifecycle.

Yesterday morning, Friends of RGV Reef members traveled to the Brownsville ship channel to track progress being made at their 1,650-acre reef site that was donated by the Port of Brownsville.

RGV Reef members were at sea for about six hours surveying the reefs’ fish populations by using sonar devices and dropping a few lines to see the size of the fish in the area.

Curtis Hayungs, an RGV Reef board member, said RGV Reef is the largest reef off the Texas Coast and contains the first industrial scale reef in the Gulf of Mexico.

“I’m the one that does all of the diving so I’ve really been able to see the progress over the past couple of years,” Hayungs said.

When Friends of RGV Reef sunk their first boat a few years ago, 10 cameras were mounted on it.

“I went back to retrieve the cameras and counted more than 15 species of fish and probably more than 20,000 fish in just two weeks,” he recalled. “Prior to that, there was nothing in sight and the reason for that is from where everybody hangs out on the beach, to about 60 miles straight out into the middle of the ocean, it’s basically an underwater dessert.”

Hayungs said the artificial reef provides a safe haven for fish, especially small ones that are frequently hunted by larger predators.

“The reason it’s been so successful and unique is that we’re basically creating an industrial scale reef,” Hayungs explained. “And what that means is, we’re creating small, medium and large reefs for each sized fish. So, when the fish get larger, they’ll graduate to the larger reef.”

According to Hayungs, once the fish reach a certain size, they start moving up the current north toward Port Mansfield, Corpus Christi and surrounding Gulf Coast areas.

Looking ahead

Hayungs said RGV Reef plans to start phase II of their project next year.

“We’re creating a 500-foot-long, 40-foot-tall ridge along the ocean floor,” Hayungs explained. “That’s going to create an upwelling of nutrients and food, which is basically the beginning of the whole food chain.”

The nonprofit plans to deploy more than 9 million pounds of donated concrete railroad ties.

“When you bring in these little nutrients, you bring in the small bait fish,” Hayungs said. “Then when you bring in the bait fish, you can bring in bigger fish that attract predatory pelagic fish and reef fish. So, that’s the beginning of the life cycle and that’s what we’re really going to focus on next year.”

What is Friends of RGV Reef?

Friends of RGV Reef is a nonprofit comprised of recreational, commercial and charter fishermen, scuba divers and marine biologists with contractors, businessmen and ranchers who strive to create a self-sustaining artificial reef 13 miles northeast of the South Padre Island jetties that will help increase fish populations.

Alana Hernandez


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Valley cities’ sales tax numbers reflect strong state economy

Cameron and Hidalgo counties’ biggest cities showed strong gains in state sales tax reimbursements for August, the Texas Office of the Comptroller reports.

Brownsville posted a 10.66 percent gain, among the biggest in the county. Harlingen posted its second positive month in a row after a string of negative sales tax numbers earlier in the year, and was up 3.85 percent for the month. For the year, the city is 1.71 percent above last year.

Elsewhere in Cameron, the included gainers were Rio Hondo (34.48 percent), San Benito (15.14 percent), South Padre Island (9.89 percent), Port Isabel (6.88 percent) and La Feria (4.50 percent).

The only city in Cameron County which posted negative numbers was Los Fresnos, down 3.77 percent, but still up 12.91 percent for the year.

The monthly state sales tax reimbursements are a rough indicator of the health of a city’s retail sector. Economic development experts consider a 2 percent increase the point of a positive result for a city over the course of a year.

In Willacy County, both Raymondville (down 29.13 percent) and Lyford (down 8.40 percent) posted negative numbers for August, but both remain in the plus column for the year. Raymondville is up 4.12 percent and Lyford up 47.62 percent.

In Hidalgo County, Edinburg led the way in August, up 13.73 percent over the same month a year ago.

Mission was up 8.75 percent, McAllen was up 3.30 percent, Weslaco improved by 3.17 percent and Pharr was up 3.04 percent. Mercedes was static at 0.0 percent.

Annual gains in Hidalgo County are even more impressive. Pharr is up 13.92 percent over last year, Edinburg is up 13.78 percent, McAllen has shown a gain of 9.72 percent, Mission is up 8.84 percent and Weslaco is up 5.84 percent.

Mercedes, heavily dependent on its outlet mall and the dollar-peso exchange rate, has been reversing its trend over the past two to three years and is up 2.31 percent for 2019.

Statewide, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced $773.1 million in sales tax allocations to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts would be distributed for the month of August.

That is a 5.1 percent increase from a year ago.

Monthly percent Annual percent

Cameron County

HARLINGEN Up 3.85 Up 1.71

SAN BENITO Up 15.14 Up 8.47

RIO HONDO Up 34.48 Up 28.79

LA FERIA Up 4.50 Up 5.44

S. PADRE ISL Up 9.89 Up 7.28

PORT ISABEL Up 6.88 Up 6.52

LOS FRESNOS Down 3.77 Up 12.91

BROWNSVILLE Up 10.66 Up 4.33

Willacy County

RAYMONDVILLE Down 29.13 Up 4.12

LYFORD Down 8.40 Up 47.62

Hidalgo County

MCALLEN Up 3.30 Up 9.72

MERCEDES Even 0.00 Up 2.31

EDINBURG Up 13.73 Up 13.78

PHARR Up 3.04 Up 13.92

MISSION Up 8.75 Up 8.84

WESLACO Up 3.17 Up 5.84

Source: Office of the Texas Comptroller. Allocations are based on sales made in August by businesses that report tax monthly.

By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer


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Sculptors create their best at Sandcastle Days

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Heavy clouds loomed over the Laguna Madre area Friday morning pounding some cities with rain while creating scattered power outages.

But miraculously, the storm never reached the Island during one of its most visual outdoor events of the year.

A dozen master sand sculptors from around the country and world have been competing in the Island’s 32nd Annual Sandcastle Days contest held at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill this week.

From dragons to sea turtles and even a haunted house, each artist has been preparing, designing, carving and perfecting their sand sculptures since Wednesday.

“These sandcastles are created by very talented people and we just love this event,” Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill owner Clayton Brashear said. “There’s so much exciting family-friendly fun for everybody.”

Attendees will be able to take free sandcastle lessons today at 8 a.m. and tomorrow at 10 a.m. Additionally, visitors will be able to compete for prizes such as gift certificates in the event’s amateur sand sculpture contest that will be held today from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The founders

Sandcastle Days was created by local sand sculptors Walter “Amazin’ Walter” McDonald and Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga to educate people about the importance of protecting coastal shores and to showcase the Island’s ability to create such large and intricate sandcastles.

“We competed in different contests around the country and world,” Wierenga said. “So, we thought South Padre Island should also have them because it’s a beautiful location and there’s such great sand.”

Florida sand sculptor Andy Daily’s contest entry in progress yesterday at the 32nd annual 5-day Sandcastle Days event on South Padre Island.

Wierenga said the competition has two more competitors this year and hopes Sandcastle Days continues growing.

“These people are my friends, but they’re also some of the best sand sculptors in the world,” Wierenga said. “So, it’s fun to be able to bring them here and put on a show that people come from miles around to see.”

Like father, like daughter

Taking after her father, Amazin’ Walter, Christy McDonald Atkinson is one of the 12 artists competing in the Sandcastle Days competition this year.

Christy and Amazin’ Walter decided to compete solo this year, but their choice of design showcased their similar style of artwork.

At one corner of the competition, Amazin’ Walter was meticulously creating arcs for his castle.

While at the other corner, Christy was chiseling scales on her large dragon she named Saphria.

“I love doing solo work, but I also really love working with my dad during competitions,” she said. “We always have so much fun together.”

Together, the duo has competed in several master level contests around the United States and Canada.

Amazin’ Walter McDonald, one of the Sandcastle Days founders, puts his skills to work as he creates his entry in the 32nd Annual Sandcastle Days event on South Padre Island yesterday.

“When I moved here around 2001, he started doing a few pieces and I had already started dabbling,” Christy recalled. “He took me to the world championship as his partner and that was my first master’s competition.”

After having moved away from the Island, Christy says she is excited to be participating this year.

“I’ve been competing in this on-and-off since the 90s and think it’s such an incredible event,” she said. “There’s a lot of work behind the scenes so I would like to give it two giant thumbs up and thank everyone involved.”

Alana Hernandez


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Breast cancer awareness nonprofit to host fundraisers

From bubblegum pink to magenta, there will be seas of people on the Island next weekend sporting the colors and showing their support for those affected by breast cancer.

SPI Walk for Women, a nonprofit that provides financial, prosthetic and diagnostic support to women with breast cancer, will host its annual weekend of fundraisers on the Island starting Friday, Oct. 11.

A Roaring 20s Casino Night and Auction will be held Friday, Oct. 11, at Louie’s Backyard from 7 to 11 p.m.

A $40 entry donation includes appetizers and $500 in gaming chips.

Winnings at the end of the night will be exchanged for raffle tickets that winners can enter in drawings for prize packages.

Registration for the nonprofit’s bay fishing tournament costs $70 per angler and will be held at Louie’s Backyard Oct. 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The tournament begins the following day at 7 a.m. and a weigh-in will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Lunch will be served to anglers in the afternoon followed by an awards ceremony.

The fundraising weekend will end with an awareness walk on Oct. 13.

Registration is free and will be held from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. at the SPI Convention Centre.

The walk will start at the Convention Centre and end at Louie’s Backyard.

Transportation to the Convention Centre after the walk will be provided by Walk for Women.

According to Walk for Women representatives, the organization has contributed more than $300,000 to more than 65 women with breast cancer and their families in the past 15 years.

According to Walk for Women member Rees Langston, the organization hopes to expand their presence and get more participants from cities such as Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen.

“We do have groups that come from those cities, but we’re hoping this year we can get more interest,” she said. “We service Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties so we would like more people from the upper Valley to come walk with us.”

Langston says the most rewarding part of being a part of the organization is being able to help those in need.

“We get thank you notes saying Walk for Women came along at the exact time they needed help,” she explained. “So, it’s very gratifying to hear back from the people we’ve helped.”

Visit www.spiwalkforwomen.org to donate or seek assistance from Walk for Women.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

WALK FOR WOMEN CASINO NIGHT

WHEN — Friday, Oct. 11 from 7 to 11 p.m.

WHERE — Louie’s Backyard, 2305 Laguna Boulevard, South Padre Island

COST — A $40 entry donation includes $500 in gaming chips and appetizers

For table sponsorships, email Donna Eymard at deymard@portofbrownsville.com or call (956) 454-2700.

WALK FOR WOMEN FISHING TOURNAMENT

WHEN — Saturday, Oct. 12 from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WEIGH IN — 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WHERE — Louie’s Backyard

COST — $70

REGISTRATION — https://tinyurl.com/y5kfpjnq

16TH ANNUAL BREAST CANCER AWARENESS WALK

WHEN — Sunday, Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon

ONLINE REGISTRATION — https://tinyurl.com/y2ca86kb

ONSITE REGISTRATION — 8:30 to 9:45 a.m.

STARTS — 10 a.m., South Padre Island Convention Centre, 7355 Padre Boulevard

ENDS — Louie’s Backyard

COST — Free

Alana Hernandez


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Brownsville to participate in international cleanup day

Today, thousands of volunteers around the world will get together to clean beaches for the yearly International Coastal Cleanup Day by Texas Adopt-A-Beach program.

The event began more than 30 years ago, when communities rallied together with the common goal of collecting and documenting the trash littering their coastline. More than 100 countries come together each year and participate in a cleanup event, according to the event’s official website.

In Brownsville, Keep Brownsville Beautiful organizes the event in partnership with the Adopt-A-Beach program. This is the seventh year the organization has been doing the cleanup at Boca Chica Beach and it is an effort from the state, the county and the City of Brownsville.

“Our main goal is to clean the entire 7.8 miles of Boca Chica Beach. At the same time there will be an international group from Matamoros and they’ll be cleaning Playa Azul (the beach on Matamoros),” Eli de Leon, program coordinator for Keep Brownsville Beautiful, said.

De Leon said it will be nice for the community to assist in the cleanup because Boca Chica Beach is one of Texas’ hidden gems and there are no commercial properties there, making the beach a great place to go and spend time there as a family.

“It is our beach, there are no commercial properties there, no hotels, no restaurants, it is a heaven of ocean that we can go and enjoy and why not keep it healthy and clean for the ecosystem and ourselves, to see and enjoy whenever we want,” he said.

Since the Texas Adopt-A-Beach foundation began in 1986, more than 533,000 volunteers have removed 9,600 tons of trash from Texas beaches. That is more than 19,200,000 pounds of trash littered on beaches from South Padre Island to north of Galveston.

Organizers say one of the reasons the foundation has been so successful is because of the thousands of volunteers who show up for each beach cleanup. The most common trash collected is cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws.

“I believe that in order to make a change, it starts with us. We could read about it, we could preach about it but if we ourselves are not doing our part then we are not going to make a difference in anything,” De Leon said. “It is easy to point the finger at the other guy but if we do our part than maybe we will encourage others to do their part, and maybe we will lead in the right direction.”

At Boca Chica Beach registration starts at 8 a.m. and the cleanup will conclude at 2 p.m. Keep Brownsville Beautiful will provide equipment and a light lunch.

For more information about the cleanup at Boca Chica Beach, visit Keep Brownsville Beautiful on Facebook or call De Leon at (956) 459-1631.

Other locations that will participate in the cleanup are South Padre Island with SPI KATS. They will clean several beaches on the island including Andy Bowie Park and Beach Access No. 3 on the north side of the Island from 9 a.m. to noon. Another group will cleanup Beach Access No. 2 off of Highway 100. For more information on this location contact Danielle Delgado at (956) 761-3700.

nreyna@brownsvilleherald.com

By Nubia Reyna Staff Writer


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Sea Turtle, Inc. fundraiser raises money towards turtle rehab facility

Turtle lovers from all over Texas came out to lend their support to Sea Turtle, Inc. last weekend, to help raise funds for the organization’s ongoing endeavors to rescue and rehabilitate injured sea turtles and conserve all marine turtle species.

The fundraiser, dubbed “Tastes and Toddies with the Turtles” took place at Sea Turtle, Inc.’s sprawling facility located in the north end of South Padre Island. Turtle enthusiasts enjoyed a variety of food and beverage selections provided by local restaurants, along with both a silent and live auction. While listening to music provided by Jewel Marie and the Blitz, guests enjoyed sampling the cuisine as they sat at tables placed among the giant tanks housing the resident turtles at the center.

Auction items included numerous turtle themed artwork and jewelry, as well as goods and services from local businesses and restaurants.

Standing near the buffet tables, Jeff George, executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc, reflected on the history of the facility.

“I was thinking today, 27 years I’ve been involved with Sea Turtle, Inc. We are almost the biggest sea turtle center in the world. And it’s only possible because of three things: passionate employees, all of our volunteers and, most importantly, our community support. We’re just blown away by the number of people who come in from McAllen and Brownsville and all over. And all of these restaurants who donated their time and food, it just never ceases to amaze me how blessed we are with community support.”

George elaborated on what the evening’s fundraising efforts would be earmarked for, saying the proceeds would be used for the Sea Turtle, Inc.’s rehab center.

“It’s going to be remodeled. Our plan is to tear it down starting August 15, 2020, and build a brand new state-of-the-art clinic for our turtles. At that point, we will be the largest sea turtle center in the world,” George declared.

Starting as a volunteer at Sea Turtle, Inc in 1999, then serving as bookkeeper ever since, SPI resident Stephanie Wilson was on hand for the event, and shared her thoughts on the facility that she has supported for 20 years.

“Just to see the growth that has occurred, and what they do for the turtles, the environment, the area, it’s just amazing. One of the reasons I started volunteering here was because you couldn’t adopt them, so I didn’t have to worry about that, like volunteering with the Humane Society, I couldn’t take them home. You get so attached to them,” Wilson said, laughing.

When asked what she would like people to know about Sea Turtle, Inc., Wilson said “I think if they just come here and would see the work that they do—the hospital with all the rehab, the resident turtles for educational purposes—we’re trying to make it more and more like their natural habitat, so I think it’s great.”

Stacy and Craig Reed, visiting from Spring, Texas, were attending the fundraiser, and were enjoying the festivities. “We’ve been here before with our grandkids, they enjoyed it. This is a good cause, we definitely wanted to show up.”

Also enjoying the turtle benefit were Ray Ernst and Peggy Green-Ernst from Dallas, Texas. Peggy explained her reasons for attending.

“I’ve been wanting to join the Sea Turtle Center for a long time. I do believe in what the founders did many many years ago and the great success that they’ve had. And I wanted to be a part of that,” Peggy said.

Peggy went on to say “What they have done as far as expanding the number of turtles in the world, it’s trend-setting. It’s another wonderful thing to put South Padre Island on the map for other people outside of the U.S. as well.” Ray agreed, adding “It’s a fabulous facility, the second biggest attraction on the Island after the beach.”

-By PAMELA CODY


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Casting for a cause

More than 100 anglers will cast their fishing lines this weekend in an effort to help abused, neglected and abandoned kids in South Texas.

Valley Haven, Inc., an emergency children’s shelter based in Harlingen, will host its fifth annual 2-day Boat and Kayak Fishing Tournament starting Friday Sept. 20 at Louie’s Backyard and Jim’s Pier on the Island.

Fishing tournament registration will be held Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Louie’s Backyard.

A captain’s meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Louie’s Backyard.

Participants will be able to check in Saturday starting at 5:30 a.m. at Jim’s Pier, and will be able to fish from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Weigh in will be held at Jim’s Pier from noon to 2 p.m.

A dinner will be held at Louie’s Backyard starting at 6:30 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at 7 p.m.

The fee for adult anglers is $100.

Anglers ages 17 and younger will be charged $45 to participate in the tournament.

Fishing isn’t the only way attendees can lend a helping hand to the good local cause.

The fundraiser will also feature a social event.

For a $50 donation, the social event will include a meal and one door prize ticket.

“There’s going to be lots of wonderful raffle items and door prizes, said Valley Haven, Inc. Executive Director and Co-Founder Kristen Millon. “People will be able to mingle with our staff and we would love to have them there.”

Valley Haven, Inc. opened its doors in February of 2018 and began operating as the region’s first emergency children’s shelter.

Millon said the nonprofit’s annual fundraiser makes a huge impact for kids that receive help at Valley Haven, Inc.

“All of the funds we raise go directly to anything the kids need such as daily care, medical and school needs, clothes and shoes” Millon explained. “So, it’s a huge impact because it helps us provide them with the most normal life we can.”

According to Valley Haven, Inc.’s website, before the nonprofit was created, children removed from their homes by Child Protective Services were transported to emergency children’s shelters that are located three or more hours away from the Valley.

Valley Haven, Inc.’s 6,600 square-foot home is capable of housing 36 children that are just months old up to 17 years old, and prioritizes keeping siblings together.

“Everything we do is for the kids that are placed with us,” Millon said. “So, it’s very rewarding to see everybody work together to support our organization, our cause and make things happen.”

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Friday

WHERE — Louie’s Backyard

FISHING TOURNAMENT REGISTRATION —from 6 to 9 p.m.

CAPTAIN’S MEETING — 7:30 p.m.

SOCIAL EVENT — 6 to 9 p.m.

Saturday

CHECK-IN — Jim’s Pier starting at 5:30 a.m.

FISHING TOURNAMENT — 6:00 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WEIGH IN — Jim’s Pier from noon to 2 p.m.

DINNER — Louie’s Backyard from 6 to 8 p.m.

AWARDS CEREMONY — Louie’s Backyard at 7 p.m.

RAFFLE — Louie’s Backyard at 7:30 p.m.

IF YOU GO

WHAT — Valley Haven’s third annual Boat and Kayak Fishing Tournament

WHEN — Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21

WHERE — Louie’s Backyard, 2305 Laguna Blvd., South Padre Island

TOURNAMENT COST — $100 per angler, $45 per child angler (17 and younger)

SOCIAL EVENT FUNRAISER — $50 donation includes meal and one door prize ticket

For more information, visit www.valleyhaveninc.org, email info@valleyhaveninc.org or call (956) 893-0422.

Alana Hernandez


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Cities post strong sales tax increases for July

State sales tax allocations this month show that Brownsville posted a gain of 1.34 percent.

Allocations for the city of Harlingen bounced back after several hard-slogging months, showing a 12.10 percent increase on sales made in July.

Elsewhere, cities in both Cameron and Hidalgo counties posted strong year-over-year sales tax allocation gains for the month.

Sales tax allocations made monthly by the Texas Comptroller’s Office are regarded as indicators of the health of a municipality’s retail sector. These allocations are based on sales made in July by businesses that report tax monthly.

In Cameron, San Benito posted a gain of 32.02 percent for the month, and remains up 7.77 percent for the year. Rio Hondo posted a monthly gain of 27.67 percent, Los Fresnos was up 13.94 percent, South Padre Island recorded an 8.82 percent gain, Port Isabel was up 8.32 percent and La Feria broke about even, up 0.08 percent.

In Willacy County, Raymondville was down sharply by 14.55 percent while Lyford posted a gain of 5.94 percent.

Hidalgo County cities continued their strong showing for this year, with McAllen up 16.60 percent for the month, Edinburg up 25.25 percent, Pharr up 18.70 percent, Mission up 11.98 percent, Weslaco up 11.86 percent and Mercedes up 5.55 percent.

Statewide, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $801.5 million in local sales tax allocations for September, 8.5 percent more than September 2018.

More Information

Monthly percent Annual percent

Cameron County

HARLINGEN Up 12.10 Up 1.50

SAN BENITO Up 32.02 Up 7.77

RIO HONDO Up 27.67 Up 28.13

LA FERIA Up 0.08 Up 5.53

S. PADRE ISL Up 8.82 Up 6.93

PORT ISABEL Up 8.32 Up 6.47

LOS FRESNOS Up 13.94 Up 15.11

BROWNSVILLE Up 1.34 Up 3.65

Willacy County

RAYMONDVILLE Down 14.55 Up 10.32

LYFORD Up 5.94 Up 56.09

Hidalgo County

MCALLEN Up 16.60 Up 10.43

MERCEDES Up 5.55 Up 2.56

EDINBURG Up 25.25 Up 13.78

PHARR Up 18.70 Up 15.14

MISSION Up 11.98 Up 8.85

WESLACO Up 11.86 Up 6.13

Source: Office of the Texas Comptroller. Allocations are based on sales made in July by businesses that report tax monthly.

By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer


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Honoring survivors and the fallen; Island to host causeway collapse memorial

 A little after 2 a.m., Ed Cyganiewicz received a knock at his door.

It was Sept. 15, 2001, a night Cyganiewicz says he will never forget.

“I remember it clearly,” said Cyganiewicz, who was mayor at the time. “I didn’t have a peephole and I could hear the crackling of a police radio.”

Upon opening the door, he saw South Padre Island Police Department Sgt. James Woodard who told him the bridge collapsed and there were people in the water.

That night, the Queen Isabella Causeway was struck by a barge, causing a large section of the structure to collapse and several motorists to plunge into the water.

Cyganiewicz recalled seeing several boats trying to rescue people upon arriving at the scene.

The tragic event killed eight people — Barry and Chelsea Welch, Bob Harris and Hector Martinez, Jr., all of Port Isabel; Julio Mireles of Los Fresnos; Robin Leavell of Mercedes; Stvan Francisco Rivas of Humble, and Gaspar Hinojosa of Kingsville.

Three people survived the incident — Rene Mata of Port Isabel; Bridgett Goza and Gustavo Morales of Brownsville.

“Every time I run into one of the survivors, and he probably will be there Sunday — we’ll just hug each other because he’s someone who’s very fortunate,” Cyganiewicz said.

In honor of those affected, the Queen Isabella Causeway was renamed the Queen Isabella Memorial Bridge in 2003.

The cities of Port Isabel and the Island take turns hosting an anniversary memorial every year to honor both the victims and the survivors of the Queen Isabella Causeway collapse.

The City of South Padre Island will host the ceremony today at 1 p.m. at Memorial Park, located at the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes near the entrance to the Island.

“We would like to remember and honor the victims,” South Padre Island City Manager Randy Smith stated in a press release. “The community will never forget the impact left from this tragic event.”

Today’s memorial will include an honor guard, an invocation and speeches by representatives of both cities.

When it comes to the memorials, Cyganiewicz said the first thing he thinks about is remembering the victims and the survivors.

Secondly, he thinks about how proud he was to see communities, neighbors and everyone come together during the difficult time.

“I always to this day, say it made our community a lot closer and a lot stronger,” he said. “If we could get through this, we could get through almost anything.”

ahernandez@valleystar.com


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SPI Birding Center to celebrate World Shorebirds Day

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Bird watching enthusiasts will be able to partake in an upcoming local celebration of World Shorebirds Day.

The South Padre Island Birding, Nature and Alligator Sanctuary will host a variety of shorebird-themed activities Saturday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to noon.

General admission into the sanctuary will cost $5.

Educational crafts and games for children will be offered throughout the event.

Shorebird Scavenger Hunts will be held at 9 and 11 a.m. along the site’s boardwalk during a guided tour.

According to Birding, Nature and Alligator Sanctuary personnel, the Island is a great location to see a diversity of shorebirds during the fall migration.

“A big diversity of shorebirds migrate through our area during late August through September,” said Javier Gonzalez, sanctuary naturalist educator. “So, this is a great time to see a large amount of diverse species out on the mudflats and wetlands at the Birding Center.”

The facility will also host its “Amazing Life of Shorebirds” presentation at 10:30 a.m.

Shorebirds migrate back and forth between nesting grounds every year as far north as the Arctic tundra to wintering grounds on the Island and further south.

Through the presentation, attendees will learn about shorebirds’ long-distanced migrations.

Gonzalez describes the celebration as an opportunity to shine light on birds that are often overlooked.

“My favorite thing about this event is helping people see shorebirds, learn how to recognize them and then watch them be amazed when I tell them how far these birds travel,” he said. “So, this time of year, we always try to focus a day on them so people can learn all about shorebirds.”

MORE INFO

IF YOU GO

WHAT — World Shorebirds Day

WHEN — Saturday, Sept. 7 from 9 a.m. to noon

WHERE — South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary, 6801 Padre Blvd.

COST — $5 general admission

SCHEDULE

• “Amazing Life of Shorebirds” presentation starts at 10:30 a.m.

• Shorebird Scavenger Hunts at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Alana Hernandez


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