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Big Catch: TIFT Lures Scores of Anglers, Boats

       

 

Taylor Kucia had just weighed his redfish and trout on the third day of the 75th annual Texas International Fishing Tournament.
Kucia, 16, had come from McAllen to partici-pate in the event which included 1,245 anglers both children and adults. The junior division, which had about 300 entries, was divided into three categories, including children ages 7 and under, and 8 to 12-year-olds. Kucia had competed in the 13 to 16-year-old category.
The redfish weighed in at 4.65 pounds and was 23 and 7/8 inches, and the trout at 16 and 7/8 inches long.
“I got three reds and three trout in the morning, first hour,” he said Satur-day at Southpoint Marina. The other four had been released.
Suddenly a voice called out.
“Is this the mighty angler Taylor Kucia?” said a young man in a bright orange T-shirt that showed he was a volunteer.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Clayton Neu-haus, 17. “I have been waiting for this for a long time.”
Clayton, of Weslaco, was joking around with his friend Taylor who offered to give him his autograph. However, he was quite serious about helping the younger children bring in their fish to be weighed and measured. He and the scores of other volunteers were on hand to help any way they could.
“I’m carrying fish around,” he said. “The kids are really excited.”
The air was warm and a festive energy seemed to mingle with the salty breeze. Excited laughter and the smell of sunscreen brightened the event.
Volunteers in orange shirts seemed to be every-where, enjoying every-one’s company and jumping in to carry fish for anglers pulling up in their boats. It was mid-afternoon and weighing would last until 8 p.m. However, anglers were already coming in with impressive catches from distant places around the Laguna Madre, places they seemed to know very well.

Travis M. Whitehead

 


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Gone On Patrol: Meliah Gore and Micah Gore

 

While summer days are perfect for soaking up the sun and enjoying a fun read on the beach, teens in the Cameron County Junior Lifeguard program spend afternoons learning life-saving skills.
The Cameron County Beach Patrol will hold its third and last training session of the summer for Junior Lifeguards on Aug. 11.
According to Beach Patrol lieutenant and Junior Guard program coordinator Myrna Casillas, the program is the second of its kind in the state after Galveston.
Casillas called the training a mini-lifeguard academy because it provides participants with the chance to explore the skills necessary to become a successful lifeguard, including how to spot rip currents, ocean dangers, basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and first-aid. Participants in the program must be 10-15 years old and possess strong swimming skills.
South Padre Island resident Gene Gore, enrolled his children Micah, 13, and Meliah, 11, in the training program. Gore said he felt the training would provide the children with a variety of career options as well as ocean safety training.
“It leads to career opportunities in public service, not just life guarding but EMS (Emergency Medical Services), fire and rescue and Coast Guard. It opens many doors for the children,“ Gore said.
Gore said although his children were accomplished swimmers before the training he has seen their swimming skills improve and their confidence levels rise.
According to Casillas, the Gore children were top performers in the program, which comes as no surprise because swimming is second-nature to the children and the interest to serve as lifeguards is somewhat of a family tradition. Gore met his wife Rachel when the two were life guarding on Galveston beach.
Lifeguard Chief Michael Johnson hopes the program will continue next year and that the self-sustaining aspect of the program encourages county officials to consider keeping the program.
Junior Guards must pay a $125 fee for the two-week training session, which includes a t-shirt, U.S. Lifesaving Association membership and magazine subscription, and covers the hourly wages of the instructors.

Christina R. Garza

 


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Second SPI Access Workshops Slated for the Week

 

Members of the public are invited to share their thoughts on the development of a second-access causeway to South Padre Island at community workshops on Tuesday at the SPI Convention Centre and Wednesday at the Port Isabel City Hall.
Both meetings will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. The SPI Convention Centre is located at 7355 Padre Island Blvd. and the Port Isabel City Hall at 305 E. Maxan St.
The “context sensitive solutions” (CSS) workshops are being held by the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, which is pushing the second-access project. Resident are encouraged to attend “to ensure that this critical transportation project reflects the values and needs of your community,” according to CCRMA.
The workshop will update attendees on the second-access project, recap the project’s previous CSS efforts, and “engage stakeholders in ‘theming’ preferences” for the project, said CCRMA.
Pete Sepulveda Jr., CCRMA’s executive director, said in July that the agency is making substantial progress on the project, conducting traffic and revenue studies and updating a 6-year-old economic impact study.
The new causeway would be a toll way connected to separate but related CCRMA project, the Outer Parkway. Sepulveda said plans are to start construction on the causeway in 2017.

Steve Clark

 


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Food Network Chef Revamps Island Eatery

Renowned chef and TV personality Robert Irvine and his crew recently traveled to South Padre Island to film an episode of the very popular series, ‘Restaurant: Impossible.’
Padre Rita Grill, owned by Michael and Kathy Laferty, was the lucky recipient of Irvine’s expertise, receiving a $10,000 makeover and a new menu courtesy of the show. The renovation took place over a two-day period, with scores of local volunteers pitching in to help with the remodel. Last Thursday evening, those with coveted dinner reservations for the grand re-opening waited in line for more than an hour past the scheduled time, and were instructed not to cheer or take pictures when Irvine appeared. Among those in attendance were South Padre Island Mayor Bob Pinkerton, Port Isabel Mayor Joe E. Vega, local chefs, restaurateurs, and City Council members.
With film crews recording, the Lafertys finally opened the doors, beckoning in the excited guests. Diners were anxious to see the new décor and they were not disappointed. Gone were the giant tiki faces, Christmas lights, and palapa tables: in their place were cherry turquoise walls, beachy palm tree and seagull motifs, complemented by contrasting navy and turquoise-striped walls in the rear of the restaurant. The much-improved look is lighter and more contemporary, with bright contrasting colors and modern accents.
Regarding the food and new menu, here are some comments shared about the previous food quality while the crowd waited to be admitted: “Came here once and never came back. They’d been open for several years, it was awful! How do you screw up a chef salad?” and “My husband’s enchiladas were swimming in water!”
Those disappointed diners were rewarded with a stripped down one-page menu, simple and elegant, with fresh ingredients and beautiful presentation highlighted with every dish. Irvine recommended the kitchen do away with the salad bar and buffet: his suggestions included replacing those features with delicious items like shrimp ceviche made with melon, cilantro and jalapenos, sweet corn and chorizo quesadillas, and smoked pork sopes with a peach and black bean salsa.
However, on July 29, the following message was posted on Padre Rita Grill’s Facebook page that announced the buffet will still be offered: “New menu, new décor, old favorites, prime rib-paella-seafood buffet, Friday and Saturday.”
Entrees for the special guests include mole’ glazed chicken with sofrito rice and cilantro lime black beans: grilled skirt steak with smoked tomatillo rice, watercress and grilled tomato salad: barbecued salmon: and a fajita-style burger with fried jalapenos on a brioche bun. The overall response was extremely positive.
Irvine, hair a bit more grey but looking incredibly buff, enjoyed a Corona with lime while diners sampled the new menu. He then got the crowd’s attention by bellowing: “Everybody quiet!” and “quiet the kitchen!” before addressing the diners. He called up active duty members in attendance first, acknowledging them and their service.  “We spend about 150 days a year taking care of our military. They’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country, give them a big hand!” He then gave a shout-out to his crew, offering a champagne toast and marital advice to members of his staff who were marrying in two weeks. He finished by saying, “It took 36 hours to transform something cluttered and messy into something amazing. Thanks for coming, enjoy your evening!”
After a bit more filming the show was a wrap, with Irvine graciously posing for selfies and chatting with guests.
Long-time employee Ivy Easterly, interviewed outside the restaurant prior to the grand opening, was visibly excited about the restaurant’s new beginning. “I’ve never seen Michael so motivated – I knew it was there, but now having listened to him talk from the bottom of his heart, I know we can do it and make it work.”
In an interview filmed during the dinner service, Michael gushed “I’m totally thrilled and in love with it – it’s a new beginning and I can’t wait to tell everybody all about it.  Everybody’s at their station and the ship is running smoothly the way it should be.”
Regarding his wife Kathy’s response to the changes, he said “I’ve never seen her this happy, she’s bubbly and having a good time.”
Be sure to stop in and see the new improved Padre Rita Grill and sample Chef Irvine’s menu. They’re located at 4001 Padre Blvd in South Padre Island. The episode is airing in October, so mark your calendars to check out the show in the fall. The restaurant is also planning a special screening and dinner on the night of the show.

 


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Potential Deals with SpaceX Advance

Cameron County Commissioners Court on Thursday voted to proceed on the terms and conditions discussed behind closed doors regarding incentives and an economic development agreement with SpaceX toward development of a spaceport at Boca Chica Beach.
The court unanimously voted to proceed, following an executive session during Thursday’s regular meeting. Details of the proposed incentives and agreement could not be revealed at this time. Commissioners Court Chief Legal Counsel Bruce Hodge told the Star during a short break that the agreements have not been finalized yet.
This is among developments regarding Elon Musk’s proposal to develop the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex in Cameron County near Brownsville.
Already, SpaceX, through companies called Dogleg Park LLC and The Flats at Mars Crossing LLC, has purchased approximately 100 acres of land at Boca Chica.
The Brownsville Economic Development Council (BEDC), which also has been assisting SpaceX in the endeavor, has been purchasing properties adjacent to SpaceX properties, too, the Star found.
In mid-March, BEDC purchased five lots from a private land owner. The lots measure 2.321 acres combined, public records reflect.

 


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Gladys Porter Zoo Introduces Newest Addition: Another White Rhino

       

The Gladys Porter Zoo is now home to not one but two white rhinoceroses.

Julie is joining Tilly as the second white rhinoceros at the zoo. “White rhinos are really social, they’re not like other rhinos,” said Walter Dupree, the zoo’s curator of animals.
The white rhinoceros is also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros and is the largest species of rhino that exists. The herbivores are found in grasslands and savannahs.
In a viewing Wednesday at the zoo, the rhinos were scheduled to make their first face-to-face encounters.
The zoo acquired Tilly in 1988 from Tennessee’s Knoxville Zoo. She is 48 years old.
Julie, who is 20 years old from Ohio, was introduced to the exhibit alone last week to familiarize herself with her new home.
Julie and Tilly have been housed in the same barn since Julie’s arrival on June 21, but resided in separate stalls. They have been able to see and smell each other, but have not been able to make actual contact.
Dupree said rhinos in captivity live between 40 and 45 years and in the wild for 30 to 35 years.
“They go through quarantine for 30 days,” Dupree said of an animal’s arrival to the zoo.

Victoria Brito

 


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SpaceX Project Advances

SpaceX’s proposal to develop a launch site at Boca Chica Beach took giant leaps forward with the submission to Cameron County of applications for commercial building permits, the Star found.

On Monday, SpaceX’s Dogleg Park LLC submitted an application for a permit to install small solar panels off-grid in the vicinity of the proposed launch control center at the potential launch site. The contractor is SolarCity. Elon Musk, founder of the California-based Space Exploration Technologies, is chairman of SolarCity.
And on Tuesday, Brownsville Economic Development Council Executive Vice-President Gilbert Salinas also submitted an application for a commercial permit in connection with the BEDC-SpaceX-University of Texas at Brownsville’s STARGATE project for construction of a 12,000 square feet tracking center. The contractor of the project is not noted in the permit application.


The developments are the third critical and telling ones this month regarding the progress of SpaceX’s plans to develop the world’s first private, commercial vertical launch site in South Texas.
“Short of there being an official announcement, this is another indication that they are serious about locating in Cameron County,” Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos told the Star. Cascos said that one has to go through the permitting process before construction, and that this could signal the beginning of some building construction. “It’s a very good indication. We are all very excited in anticipating the official announcement so they can move forward,” the judge said.

EMMA PEREZ-TREVIÑO

 


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Nature Report: 75th TIFT

The largest single event saltwater fishing tournament in the state of Texas begins this week on South Padre Island and Port Isabel with as many as 1500 anglers expected to compete. The 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament or TIFT is set for July 30 thru August 3.

Lots of things have changed since J.A. Doc. Hockaday founded the tournament 75 years ago.Originally billed as The Rio Grande Valley Fishing Rodeo the tournament was designed to promote the areas phenomenal fishing and focused primarily on the abundant tarpon. While styles have changed and boats modernized fishing has continued to be productive in the bay and Gulf thanks in part to conservation measures implemented by the tournament that limit anglers to one fish per species per day.

The 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament or TIFT starts Wednesday, July 30th with registration. A playday for youngsters and continued registration is set for Thursday at the South Padre Island Convention Centre, and the fishing competition is scheduled for Friday and Saturday with the weigh station located in Port Isabel at South Point Marina.

Kristi Collier says, Tournament Director, "And if you come and register on Thursday you can attend Playday.  Bring the kids and have them participate from 9:30 till 1 p.m. It's at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.  It's just all about the kids.  We have kid fish tank.   We have games. We have all sorts of different age groups.  So just come on out and bring the kids for a family friendly day."

And even if you don't sign up to fish the 75th Texas International Fishing Tournament, come on down to the weigh station at South Point Marina in Port Isabel on Friday and Saturday afternoon and you will see plenty of beautiful boats and a variety of fascinating fish.

See you there!

Richard Moore

 


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Operation Bishop Raids Sweepstakes Vendor

Operation Bishop investigators executed three search warrants on South Padre Island last Thursday at an alleged illegal-gambling establishment, a local business and a private residence all in connection with the Laguna Madre Scholarship Foundation.
The sweepstakes establishment, located at 2600 Padre Blvd, Suite MN, is operated by the Laguna Madre Scholarship Foundation (LMSF). It had previously been raided, and its equipment seized, by Operation Bishop. It again reopened. Additionally, a LMSF operated a gambling establishment in Harlingen was raided in June. A search warrant was also executed at an adjacent business, Coastal Security and Investigations International, in connection with the LMSF. A third search warrant was executed at the South Padre Island residence of the Foundations manager, Joanna Quintana.
Documents and equipment were seized in connection with an ongoing investigation of the Foundation’s operation of alleged illegal-gambling establishments. According to state law and the Attorney General, eight-liner and sweepstakes businesses that give more cash prizes of $5 or more, even if some or all proceeds benefit a non-profit/charity, are deemed an illegal-gambling operation. It is estimated that the eight-liner/sweepstakes industry generates at least $300 million annually. Operation Bishop began in April 2013. Agencies that participated in the raid were: Cameron County District Attorney’s Office: Cameron County Office of Emergency

 


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Fourth Endangered Ocelot Killed By Motorists

        

A male ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and Los Fresnos last week, marking the fourth time a member of the endangered species has been killed by motor vehicle impact in the three years since 

the concrete traffic barrier was built.

The cat was discovered by a local citizen, who reported the incident to the U.S> Fish and Wildlife Department (FWD). The ocelot was found along the concrete traffic barrier with injuries that are consistent with a vehicular collision, according to a news release sent last week by the Laguna Madre Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge regularly monitors 12 ocelots, including the one that was killed last week. “The loss of this ocelot is significant in that he (represents) 20 percent of the current breeding male population at the Refuge,” the news release said. “We believe the concrete barrier is contributing to the increase in ocelot deaths by vehicles in this area,” said Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde. “Many animals will not, or cannot, jump them, get trapped on the road and pose a danger to drivers and themselves. We have been working with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on constructing wildlife crossings, but clearly more needs to be done.”
For the wild population to stay healthy and genetically diverse, ocelots from the Refuge need to travel and meet up with ocelots from other populations. Crossing roads and highways can be a deadly hazard for the cats.
The news release explained that scientific studies have shown that a wildlife crossing – an under-the-road passage with fencing to funnel animals to it – can be very effective at keeping wildlife off roads. “Crossings have been successful in south Florida where vehicle collisions with endangered panthers were a huge threat to their existence,” according to the news release. “Locally, an existing wildlife crossing on State Highway 48, near the Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit, has been used by bobcats, raccoons, and coyotes.”
Zone Biologists Mitch Sternberg further emphasized the need for the concrete barrier to be replaced by enhanced wildlife crossings. “Under-road wildlife crossings can play an important role in alleviating unnecessary ocelot deaths,” Sternberg said. “Because so few wild cats remain, losing one animal has a huge impact on the population. The crossings not only keep wildlife safe, but also the public.” Sternberg explained that the issue comes down to how much funding TxDOT budgets for building roads.
“(They) spend less on building less crossings, therefore they can build more roads,” Sternberg said. Sternberg also noted that once TxDOT budgets the funds necessary to redesign Highway 100, the district engineer can “determine, almost independently, where he spends his budget (and) they could start the process at his discretion.”
The local community plays an important role in keeping this endangered wild cat in the Rio Grande Valley. “The public can contribute to our knowledge of ocelots by watching for ocelots throughout the Valley,” Sternberg said. The public is encouraged to report any possible sightings to the Refuge by calling 956-748-3607, or after hours at 956-748-7520.
To learn more about ocelots in south Texas, visit the Refuge’s website or Facebook page.

 


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