Mary Kumpe has enjoyed and continues to take advantage of all South Padre Island happenings. Kumpe, who has lived on the Island all her life, is happy to have raised two daughters there. Her daughter Dorothy, 36, also lives on the island, while Lily, 21, now resides in Australia. “Dorothy loves to surf and do outdoorsy things on the beach because this is our home and we like to enjoy all parts of the Island,” Kumpe said.
Having worked at K’s Jewelry and Beads off Padre Boulevard has taught Kumpe a lot about the people who visit the area. “I’ve been working here ever since it opened up 30 years ago, and I enjoy seeing all types of people come in,” she said. “We talk and it’s nice to live the island life, making friends with customers throughout the years.” In her spare time, Kumpe enjoys walking her dog along the beach. “He loves feeling the sand beneath his little paws, and we walk out there every single day,” she said of her light brown poodle. Her four-legged companion greets customers at the bead shop, while Kumpe is the creative force in helping customers look good with jewelry and hair wraps. Being outgoing and creative, Kumpke also enjoys shelling.
“I love to look for different kinds of shells. My favorite to collect are the sand dollars,” she said adding that she uses some in jewelry at the shop. Kumpe enjoys promoting Island life and community events, and enjoys many Winter Texan activities. “A lot of people don’t take advantage of the music on the Island,” Kumpe says, about various music happenings that begin in September and October, when the city will close streets so that the community can enjoy an evening of live blues, jazz and country music.
“Every Friday and Saturday night, I’ll go out there with my dog and my lawn chair to listen to the music right here behind Louie’s Backyard,” she continues. “My good friend, Charlie Brommer helps put together these city events and boy do I enjoy them all. Life on the Island never gets old she says, “There is always something fun and entertaining to do.” Although she has been a life-long resident of the Island, Kumpe manages to keep a fresh perspective on life, living it to the fullest on the Island, and encouraging others to visit and enjoy her little piece of paradise.
A Coast Guard rescue helicopter crew medevaced the crew member of a container ship approximately 40 miles offshore of South Padre Island late Saturday night.
The Coast Guard’s 8th District watchstanders notified the Sector Corpus Christi Command Center at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, that a 24-year-old foreign male crew member aboard the 892-foot container ship Monte Azul, was experiencing symptoms of appendicitis and requested to be taken off of the ship for treatment.
The ship was originally beyond the range of responding helicopters. The watchstanders at the 8th District watchstanders requested the ship head toward South Padre Island and arranged a rendezvous location 40 miles offshore with the ship’s captain. A Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter and crew were dispatched at 10 p.m. After refueling the helicopter in Brownsville, the aircrew met the Monte Azul and lowered their rescue swimmer to the deck of the ship to stabilize the crew member and hoist him with the rescue basket with the assistance of the tanker’s crew.
“Conducting an offshore hoist is a difficult and potentially risky operation that our crews train for regularly,” said Lt. Tom Mulder, one of the pilots aboard the rescue helicopter. “This operation went as smooth as possible because of the professionalism and teamwork of the crew of the Monte Azul, Coast Guard watchstanders, and my helicopter crew. I am extremely happy we could bring this sailor to safety as quickly as we could and glad that he is receiving the higher level care he needs.”
The crew member is being treated at Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville and was reported to be in stable condition.
More than $25 million in state funding will be invested into Cameron County roads, but the projects aren’t only aimed to improve the lives of traveling humans.
Special crossings for ocelots are included in the county’s plans to rebuild FM 106, or General Brant Road, from Paredes Line Road to FM 510, a $15.5 million project that will run through Commissioner David A. Garza’s precinct.
A second project, also included in Precinct 3, will realign FM 803 between the expressway and State Highway 100, creating a faster route from the Rancho Viejo area to Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
Rebuilding General Brant Road has been a goal of Garza’s since he joined the commission, he said, explaining that when state maintenance on the road lapsed, the county was ill-equipped to keep it up.
Other factors making that road a challenging project is its location within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
“That road was a little bit more complicated,” Garza said. “We had to work with the refuge in making sure we protected the environment, and it was a challenge to bring in the different governmental agencies.”
The $15 million wasn’t the problem, Garza said, adding that it was arranging for the mitigation because the county would need to purchase right-of-way from the Refuge that had to be replaced at triple the rate through expansion of the refuge elsewhere.
What finally gave the project the green light were the cat crossings that will be built beneath the road at locations the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have identified as highly trafficked areas for ocelots, a predatory cat that is endangered in the United States.
As SpaceX founder Elon Musk lifted a shovel of dirt at Boca Chica in Cameron County, his ultimate goal of developing technology to enable trips to Mars took a step forward with Monday’s ceremony at the site of the world’s first private, commercial rocket launch complex. “This feels great. It feels like the future,” Musk said.
“The long-term goal is to create technology necessary to take humanity beyond Earth to Mars and establish a base on Mars,” Musk said. “So it could very well be that the first person that departs for another planet could well be departing from this location.”
Under an overcast sky, and at the location where the launch pad will be constructed, about 300 yards from the beach, Musk talked about SpaceX’s goals: to immediately develop the commercial space complex at Boca Chica to meet SpaceX’s ever growing manifest.
He intends to have the first launch in late 2016, with an initial 12 launches a year. Ultimately, “thousands of launches,” he projected. Furthermore, “when we start doing commercial crew activities, I would expect us to launch a crew from here,” he said.
“What’s important is to have a truly commercial launch site, just like we have commercial airports. Every sort of structure has its primary focus and I think it’s important that the world have a truly commercial orbital spaceport,” Musk added.
“This will be quite a significant endeavor,” Musk said about developing the complex, with about $100 million to do so.
Musk said that investments would continue into the future, not including the business initiatives that would settle in the area to support SpaceX operations.
“The fundamental point that swayed SpaceX for Boca Chica was the tremendous outpouring of support from local residents,” Musk said, adding that the willingness of state and local governments to support the project also had been a significant factor.
“We want to be in a place where we are truly wanted,” he said.
Visitors to the Rio Grande Valley have long described the culture shock experienced at the border communities within as an out of the world experience. It’s a statement that can now be taken literally as Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) broke ground Monday, Sept. 22, for its future commercial launch facility on Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville.
It’s a project hailed Valley-wide as a potential boon for local economies and job growth in South Texas communities – with officials from Harlingen- San Benito- Brownsville metropolitan and Laguna Madre areas anticipating positive impacts in their respective cities.
Elon Musk, CEO and chief designer at SpaceX, says that the ultimate goal is “to take humanity beyonf Earth – take humanity to Mars and establish a base on Mars.”
“We looked all through the country and looked at all the possibilities, and I really have to say this would be the best place to put it,” said Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla Motors and an early investor in a popular internet transaction company, PayPal.
We appreciate the leadership of Governor Rick Perry and numerous other federal, state, and local leaders who have helped make it possible for SpaceX to build the world’s first commercial launch complex designed for orbital missions,” he said, adding, “With today’s groundbreaking at Boca Chica Beach, we will begin an investment in South Texas that will create hundreds of jobs and over time contribute millions of dollars into the local economy.”
Musk expects SapceX to invest approximately $100 million in the next three to four ears. “But in the long term, if you go out, say 10, 20 years, and” says Musk, adding “it’s probably in the several hundred million dollar-range.” This as SpaceX continues to expand the facility.
Governor Rick Perry, who was also in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony, announced a Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TEFT) grant awarded to the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) for $4.4 million, which the UT System matched for $4.6 million – a combined $9 million to go toward the construction of the STARGATE complex.
This complex is expected to “provide opportunities for continuing education in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields.”
“I noticed a sign behind me that says pavement ends … 1000 feet, but the future of South Texas takes right off behind me,” said Perry, pointing behind him at the mound of dirt representing the initial groundbreaking for the future launch site.
According to a statement from Governor Rick Perry’s office, the State is offering $13 million from Spaceport Trust Fund, which was established to help develop the infrastructure needed to develop a spaceport, to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp.
State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. (District 27) said, “Today’s groundbreaking is historic. It signifies the construction of a new industry and a new future for the Rio Grande Valley. SpaceX’s launch site will soon become an invaluable economic driver for South Texas.
“With this site comes tens of millions of dollars in capital investment in our community annually, and hundreds of well-paying jobs over the next decade. We’ve set up South Texas as a future leader in developing bleeding-edge space technology which will influence future commerce for the whole planet.”
Dr. Lisa Garcia, superintendent of the Point Isabel Independent School District, added, “With scheduled rocket launches from nearby Boca Chica Beach, PIISD students will have a front row seat to history with the expansion of commercial space flight. We have great confidence the PIISD school district motto of, “Honor, Traditional, Lead, Innovation,” will be carried out as potential educational partnerships with SpaceX and the local university will allow students to explore careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering. As the school district prepares for the next generation of forward thinkers for jobs that are yet to be invented, SpaceX will allow our students to not only dream, but to achieve those dreams.”
Louis Dartez, Ph.D. student at UTB and University of Texas Arlington combined program, who was a student at Port Isabel when he was in grade school, said, “I think SpaceX is a company of vision and progress… it’s absolutely great that they’ve chosen Brownsville, not just as their future launch site, which can come specifically because of geographic location, but to … come down and embrace programs with the local students and local entities, like the university and local independent school districts.”
“I think the greatest impact it will have on the job market will be indirect,” said Dartez, saying that this will create and help boom an economy based around space exploration for the area.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez, who previously expressed her support of SpaceX’s Valley location and the positive impact she believes it’ll have on the Resaca City, stressed that surrounding communities will also benefit from the tourism the launch site will likely attract.
“I think we’ll all benefit, the entire Valley, from the tourist attraction aspect,” Sanchez said, adding, “To the jobs that will be created and the service businesses will be providing to supply SapceX, the proximity will the area stir up conversation and interest in what’s happening here. There will be stories in the paper and in the news, and local students will undoubtedly take field trips out there.”
“All that will stir up the curiosity and interest of the public, and then there are the teachers who will be talking about it in school. Our children will be very interested in learning more as science will become more relevant and real to them.”
If all goes as intended, SpaceX could be launching rockets from Brownsville no earlier than 2016.
With the room packed with state and local politicians and officials, business and real estate representatives, and local residents, the ballroom at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island was filled to capacity Monday evening for the celebration of groundbreaking ceremony for the SpaceX rocket launching facility that is being built on Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville.
It is a huge coup for the state of Texas and the lower Rio Grande Valley in particular, and promises to make the area a destination spot for fanatics everywhere. The overall response was enthusiastic and positive, with local residents expressing their feelings about the impact SpaceX will have on the community.
Liz Money, owner of a retail business Ship Shape on South Padre Island, spelled out her support on her store’s marquee, welcoming SpaceX to the area. “I think it’s going to be a game changer,” Liz said. “It’s going to give a lot of people an opportunity to have a piece of the pie if they’re willing to work hard and play fair.” Deanna Bowman of Troy Giles Real Estate was optimistic about the effect on local real estate. “I think it is definitely going to have a positive impact on the real estate market. People are going to need homes, and SPI is the natural choice.”
Alex Avalos, SPI councilman, echoed Governor Rick Perry’s comments from the morning’s groundbreaking ceremony, where SpaceX founder and visionary Elon Musk was present for the festivities. “The 6 years olds sitting in class today are the ones that are going to see the impact of this.” Avalos’ wife, Island business owner LaVina Meyer of LaVina’s Natural Nail Care, supported the statement, saying, “It feels like this is a hopeful, positive time for our Island.”
Jose Salazar, general manager of La Quinta Inns & Suites on SPI, who was manning the hotel’s information booth during the event, feels the SpaceX development will be positive for tourism. “It’s a good thing for the tourism business- people are going to come out to launches.” Kori Marra, former Harlingen city commissioner now working at Franke, Realtors on SPI, said this was great news for the Island. “We’ve been in a recession since 2008, so it’s fresh blood for SPI.” Local resident Leo DeVigil a retired former fireman from Denver, owns a rental property in Los Fresnos and was eloquent in his feelings on the impact of the arrival of SpaceX to the Rio Grande Valley. “It’s going to stimulate academic and professional careers, with the local universities. There is a need for science, engineering, and math, and this will not only promote educational opportunities but will positively impact locl businesses and property values.”
John Peacock, owner of local business Peacock Plumbing, though supportive of the project, expressed some concerns regarding the environmental impact of the facility on the local water table and wildlife. “I hope the hydrogen gas they expel won’t cause 2-headed pelicans”!” he quipped, also expressing disappointment in the lack of specific information during Monday night’s event. “I was hoping for more than just food; I expected site plans, that’s why I came.”
The presentation featured comments from Sate Representative Rene O. Olivera of Brownsville, SpaceX officials and Fredrick Janet, assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at UTB. He is the creator and director of Stargate, a partnership program with SpaceX which will allow UTB and local students – Point Isabel ISD included – the opportunity to interact and participate with the visionary space facility. “This is going to change lives and seriously impact the lives of our students. It will redefine what it means to be from South Texas.”
Port Isabel and South Padre Island are experiencing an influx of growth – from residential to business development and the like.
Major Joe E. Vega said such growth has been occurring now for the past few years. More recently, Marta Paez of Paez Development Group is developing Las Joyas Subdivision, “which is bringing a lot of excitement into Port Isabel, “ Vega said of the community to be housed near the high school off Hwy 100.
“It’s going to be a beautiful subdivision, and it’s going to be a nice added piece to our community,” he added. “That … will also bring a little growth to our community.”
There’s also a storage facility setting up shop in Port Isabel. The mayor attributes much of this growth to the attractions in the area. Vega noted that the Laguna Madre Bay, “one of the most beautiful natural resources we have,” is one such scenic destination that appeals to developers, business prospects and consumers alike.
He also cited historical and tourist locations in the area as well as “nice waterfront dining.” Further noting that there are “many things attributed to this growth.”
Then there’s SpaceX, the commercial launch facility to be located at Boca Chica Beach in neighboring Brownsville. In fact, additional growth is expected in the Laguna Madre area thanks to SpaceX.
The facility’s proximity to the Port Isabel and South Padre Island area could also bring tourism, according to Vega.
Port Isabel and the Island are close enough for spectators to get a view of the launches as many were anticipating local hotels to benefit as much. “What I understand is that, at the other facilities when they do rocket launches, it attracts 10,000 spectators at a time,” said Vega, adding, “We’re hoping we will get the same response down here…”
Vega said that not only will the facility bring economic opportunities to the community, but educational opportunities as well.
The annual Walk for Women weekend is just around the corner and organizers are reaching out to the community for assistance with their fundraising efforts.
“As part of our annual fundraising efforts, the volunteers at Walk for Women are looking for motivated individuals to serve as pledge coordinators to collect pledges for the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 12,” according to a press release. “Our goal is to raise $50 or more per pledge coordinator so that we can continue our mission to raise money to help local women with financial assistance as wage their battle against breast cancer.” A pledge form can be found on page 5 of this week’s edition of the Coastal Current.
This year is the 11th anniversary of Walk for Women, which started out as a one-day event with a walk down Padre Boulevard. Over the years it has grown into a weekend of events that includes a fishing tournament and a casino night fundraiser.
Walk for Women Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded by Laguna Madre area women to heighten breast cancer awareness and to raise money for the area residents affected by the disease who are in need of financial assistance. The weekend kicks off with a “Bet on Hope and Let Ride” Casino Night on Friday, Oct. 10 at Louie’s Backyard from 7-11 p.m. with a $10 admission donation. Hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, gaming tables, raffle drawings and prizes will be on the agenda, and supporters can purchase $400 worth of casino chips for a $20 donation.
Also that night at Louie’s Backyard anglers can register for the Saturday fishing tournament. Weigh in will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Louie’s.
Sunday marks the annual Walk for Women, where participants walk from the South Padre Island Convention Center down Padre Boulevard to Louie’s to show their support for the cause. Walk registration is at 8:30 a.m. and walk begins at 10 a.m.
Complete information, registration forms and a detailed schedule is available online at spiwalkforwomen.org.
SpaceX’s intent is to develop and activate the commercial launch site at Boca Chica in Cameron County expeditiously in order to meet an expectedly growing manifest.
Commercial launch missions to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) and beyond would be transferred to the new launch complex also. “Our preference is to try to move — particularly the commercial GTO missions — to the Boca Chica launch site as soon as we can,” SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk said Monday. Musk noted that “there is a significant benefit” in that the Boca Chica site is south of Cape Canaveral, Florida, “and that should help for GTO missions.” Most of the commercial missions involve the launching of satellites.
As Jason Davis with The Planetary Society has explained: “GTO is the last stop for payloads headed to geostationary orbit, where satellites cruise around the world at the same speed the Earth rotates, keeping them at a constant longitude. Geostationary orbits are more than 35,000 kilometers high — much higher than your run-of-the-mill 400-kilometer low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station hangs out.”
Musk, in meeting with reporters at Monday’s groundbreaking for the Boca Chica site, also emphasized that the launch sites SpaceX uses at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Station in California “are great launch sites, but they are military launch sites.” SpaceX also is presently upgrading NASA’s historic Launch Pad 39A.
The Point Isabel Independent School District is counting on big returns from SpaceX.
The land where SpaceX will build a launch site is within the PIISD’s tax zone. Property taxes will go to PIISD. The company broke ground Monday. PIISD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Garcia said the district gave SpaceX an incentive to build. The district will not tax the company for anything more than $20 million during the next 10 years.
“It’s good incentive for the company to locate in South Texas. At the same time, it provides the school district the opportunity to increase tax revue on property that was completely undeveloped,” Garcia said. The school district estimates they will net about $5 million during the next 10 years. Half of that will go back to the state as part of the re-capture or Robin Hood plan.
Students are excited with the prospect of watching rockets launch from across the Brownsville Ship Channel. “I hope to get an internship there,” PIISD ninth-grader Madison Bickerton said.
The extra tax money will benefit the district, Garcia said. The district has four schools with a total enrollment of just under 2,600. Garcia said the district may buy new buses with the extra money. “A school bus is about $92,000. Every year we try to buy one, and every year we could use three or four,” Garcia said. She also wants to upgrade facilities that rust and deteriorate quickly.
“We’re a coastal community. We have extreme conditions of salt air, wind and rain,” Garcia said. Some of the money will be spent inside the classrooms. Garcia said most of the children in her schools live near the poverty level. The impact of the new money will be as small as adding one more bus, and as large as graduating a future rocket scientist.
“Two years from now, we can be sitting in Tarpon Stadium where we’re very accustomed to watching our Tarpons win football games, (watching) a rocket launch over the back of the scoreboard because that’s going to be front-row seats,” Garcia said.