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The South Padre Island City Council unanimously approved lowering the speed limit on Gulf Boulevard this week.

The city council approved Councilwoman Theresa Metty’s proposal to lower the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour on the road that runs closest to the beach on the east side of the island.

Steven Schaefer lives on South Padre Island and remembers when Gulf Boulevard didn’t have a bike and pedestrian-only lane.

“I think the biggest safety concern was before, they put these white posts in here, there was a lot of problems,” Schaefer said.

Although Schaefer believes the road is safer, city councilwoman Metty feels the road should be safer.

In a statement to CBS 4, Metty said, “Moving traffic is just inches way from parked cars, where I’ve seen small children emerge from between parked cars, leaving almost no reaction time for vehicles to stop.”

She adds that she would have liked to see the speed limit lowered to 20 miles per hour, but the council is not allowed to do that.

“We have issues on busy weekends, primarily and during the summertime,” said Brian Bell, the general manager of one business along Gulf Boulevard. “You’ll get just large amounts of people [around Gulf Blvd., so] the lowered speed limit makes a lot of sense.”

Bell also believes the road has become safer with the added bike lane, but he says there are still drivers that go over the 30 mile per hour speed limit.

South Padre Island Spokeswoman Nikki Soto tells CBS 4 the day in which the speed limit will change on Gulf Boulevard is still pending.

by Santiago Caicedo

It’s not all games on South Padre Island, but sometimes even learning can be fun.

The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center is offering its second year of Coastal Nature Camp for kids 7 through 12 from June 25-28.

The four-day camp has four-hour daily sessions from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn about coastal ecology, habitat, animal and plant species and more.

“The first day, we look at habitat, ecology, testing of water quality in both freshwater and saltwater, so they get a feel for what the habitats are and see how it works,” said Javier Gonzalez, naturalist educator at the birding and nature center who will lead the classes.

The second day will be the study of animals in both the freshwater and saltwater habitats at the SPI birding and nature center. One day will be spent studying the birds in the habitat and another day will focus on insects and fish along with mammals and reptiles.

Gonzalez said the four hours each day will be a hands-on experience for participants who will spend most of it out in the field.

“By the end of the camp they get a pretty full knowledge of what’s out there,” Gonzalez said. “We did it last year, too, and it was a lot of fun.”

Cost of the camp is $100 per camper with a 10-child class limit.

Registration is available at the birding and nature center’s website at www.spibirding.com

By RICK KELLEY Staff Writer

No beach can stand on its own when it comes to litter.

This Saturday the Cameron County Parks Department is hosting its annual Fall Beach Cleanup on South Padre Island which will stretch five miles from Beach Access No. 2 to Beach Access No. 6.

“Plastic bottles, trash bags and cans — once in a while we’ll find a diaper,” said Blanca Macias, Adopt-A-Beach coordinator for the parks department.

Macias said last year 1,800 volunteers showed up to clear trash from one of the most popular beaches in Texas.

Parks officials say no volunteer group is too big or too small, and that as an incentive, Schlitterbahn is offering one-day admission for two persons at $40 for volunteers good for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 15-16. Volunteers need only show the wristband they will be issued Saturday to activate the deal.

After the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, hot dogs, chips and cold drinks will be available gratis for the beach clean-up volunteers.

“We provide gloves, we provide a data card that people can tally what they find out there, and then of course we provide the trash bags for them,” Macias said.

For more information, or to pre-register, call Macias or Edgar Yada at 956-761-3700.

 

Beginning on Wednesday, local artists will begin creating an aquatic mural series for Sea Turtle Inc.’s new educational complex.

The murals will be painted on the sea turtle tanks that house the nonprofit’s non-releasable sea turtles. These residents serve as educational ambassadors to their species and have their forever home at Sea Turtle Inc.

“The murals will bring our visitors closer to the underwater environments in our area and enhance their educational experience,” executive director Jeff George said in a press release. “All of the turtles at Sea Turtle, Inc. have unique stories to tell, and the art commissioned for the turtles will be another impactful educational tool.”

There are five resident tanks which will be completed in phases. The first tank that will be painted is home to Gerry, an Atlantic green sea turtle who has made several television appearances. Gerry’s 56,000-gallon aquarium mural art will be completed in one week.

By ALANA HERNANDEZ Staff writer

 

Patrollers on ATVs spent the summer searching the entire beach for nesting sea turtles.

However, these aren’t the only turtles they keep an eye out for.

Every so often, they also discover sea turtles in desperate need of help, like the ones that are entangled in fishing line and are unable to free themselves from it.

At least 115 marine species are impacted by entanglement, including mammals, turtles, birds, fish and crabs. For air-breathing animals, such as the green sea turtle, entanglement can prevent them from being able to swim to the surface, causing them to drown.

Fortunately for turtles, the help they need can be provided by the local sea turtle hospital, Sea Turtle Inc.

One such case was discovered by ATV patroller Steve Fowler. As he was on his 64-mile search up-and-down the beach in May, he happened to come across Great Scott, a green sea turtle who is now one of Sea Turtle Inc.’s latest patients.

Great Scott was found lethargic, sitting in a high tide line with an injured front flipper and tar on his shell.

Sea turtles don’t come out of the water unless they’re sick, nesting or injured. So, the Sea Turtle Inc. patroller knew it wasn’t normal for the turtle to be sitting there and he immediately took Great Scott to the facility.

On arrival, patients are given antibiotics, X-rays, blood tests and sometimes even CT scans when needed. Great Scott came into the facility with a variety of issues, so he’s a patient that especially needed these thorough examinations.

Based on Great Scott’s weight, veterinary technicians determined the turtle was less than 5 years old. Green sea turtles like Great Scott don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re around 20 to 25 years old, so veterinary technician Nina Nahvi ruled out nesting as one of the reasons Great Scott was out of the water.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel also noticed Great Scott only has a nub for a right front flipper.

Nahvi determined Great Scott’s injury was not caused by a predator attack because his flipper looks clean and rounded. If it had been caused by a predator attack, it would have looked like the limb was torn off.

This indicated the turtle’s injury was most likely the result of entanglement.

“Now, I don’t know necessarily if it’s entanglement in fishing line because sometimes turtles get entangled in onion sacks or other marine debris,” Nahvi said. “However, by the looks of it, it most likely has something to do with humans,” she added.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel say they see a lot of turtles come into the facility with injuries due to entanglement or with fishing hooks in them.

Within the past couple of weeks, the nonprofit rescued two sea turtles entangled in fishing line at the jetties at Isla Blanca.

Those two turtles survived. However, not all of them do.

Unfortunately, the nonprofit has also found several dead turtles entangled in fishing line in that area within the past few months.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel say they “see tons of fishing line” every time they walk onto the jetties to rescue a turtle.

“People are not picking up after themselves or practicing good habits out there,” Nahvi said. “They’re disposing of their lines and I don’t think they realize there are endangered or threatened animals out there that could very easily get entangled in that line.”

“It’s not just sea turtles. Any animal like sea gulls and pelicans could also get entangled in that line,” she added.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel say there’s “a simple solution” to this problem. Gathering and appropriately disposing of hooks, bobbers and fishing line could help prevent more sea animals from getting injured.

“We try to do the best we can to educate the public,” Nahvi said. “However, it’s going to require people as a whole to start caring about the ocean.”

Although Great Scott had several issues when he first arrived to Sea Turtle Inc., his health is beginning to show signs of improvement. Nahvi said he is finally gaining weight and is “continuing to work on his buoyancy issues.”

Nahvi recently increased his water level to encourage diving. Every morning, Great Scott dives down to the bottom of the tank to take a bite out of his high calcium shrimp and mackerel diet.

Sea Turtle Inc. personnel posted on their Facebook page that “Great Scott’s issues should resolve with the help of medications, supplements and Vitamin D from the sun.”

In due time, Great Scott will eventually be released and be able to return back to his home in the ocean.

 

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND – Attention RGV Runners.

The Zombie Charge “Apocalypse in Paradise” is invading South Padre Island Sept. 14 and 15. Prepare for the ensuing Zombie invasion Friday, Sept. 14 at the Zombie Charge free PreParty hosted at Schlitterbahn beach Water Park for packet pick up.

There will be plenty of food, fun and music for the entire family. Then on Saturday Sept. 15 the fun begins at Clayton’s Beach Bar with the first wave to begin at 9:30 a.m. Run the course and avoid the Zombies or hunt the survivors as a Zombie. Runners will receive a Zombie Charge Survivor pack and Zombies will receive a Zombie Make Over by a professional special effects makeup Artist.

Zombie participants will try to take the flags from the survivors. Survivors will run the course, maneuver the obstacle, avoid the Zombies and try to reach the finish with at least one of their flags.

Sound Fun? Definitely an experience to remember for participants and spectators. There will be plenty of photo ops so bring your cameras. Live music by RōZY, a young and talented group from Houston confirmed to perform and promise to make you rock out! Winners of the 2013 Houston Livestock Show Rodeo Rock Star competition and Winners of the Ernie Ball Battle of the bands winners for the 2015 Vans warped Tour.

The RoZY Official Zombie charge has been holding events in Houston and Austin for several years now. It has been very successful primarily because of the pop cultural phenomenon of shows like The Walking Dead, Z-Nation, IZombie and now “fear The Walking Dead,” just to name a few. Let’s face it, Zombies are cool.

The Goal of this event is to encourage the community to adopt a healthy lifestyle through exercise. It’s not only healthy but will be a great personal asset in case of a natural disaster. Be prepared, be fit, is the Zombie Charge Way.

Run The Course, Survive the Zombies and overcome the Obstacles. It’s not just a 5K it’s a way of Life. For more information regarding the Zombie Charge 5k South Padre edition go to the website at www.zombiecharge.com

Southwest Airlines yesterday announced a slew of new seasonal nonstop flights between Dallas/Love Field and Valley International Airport.

Southwest has added 17 extra flights that will operate nonstop between Harlingen and Dallas/Love Field during high demand days for Thanksgiving and Christmas 2018.

Also, airline officials announced that beginning March 10, Southwest will offer nonstop flights between Harlingen and Dallas/Love Field to provide passenger service for Spring Break. The airport has a shuttle service to South Padre Island.

These Sunday flights will depart from Dallas to Harlingen at 11:35 a.m. and arrive at 1:10 p.m. The Harlingen-Dallas flight departs at 1:45 p.m. and arrives at 3:20 p.m.

“These new nonstop flights to Dallas, in addition to the current nonstop flights to Austin and Houston/Hobby, will offer Rio Grande Valley travelers more options of connecting cities on the Southwest network,” Marv Esterly, director of aviation at Valley International, said yesterday.

The announcement of the new Southwest flights to Harlingen adds to an extraordinary week for Valley International. On Tuesday, officials announced a new air passenger carrier, Frontier Airlines, would begin nonstop flights to and from Harlingen to Stapleton International Airport in Denver and to and from Chicago O’Hare Airport.

Those flights will begin in November.

Currently providing air passenger service in and out of Valley International are Southwest, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.

Valley International also is an air cargo hub for DHL, FedEx and Southwest Cargo.

Earlier this month, airport officials announced the airport’s biggest project since 1990, a $15.5 million upgrade to replace 1930s-era concrete on taxiways and aircraft parking areas.

In May the airport opened a state-of-the-art, $3.8 million aircraft fire and rescue facility. The airport is currently undergoing a $1.2 million project to rip out the original late 1980s ceramic tile in the terminal building and replacing it with blue and gray epoxy terrazzo.

“The terminal’s new flooring should be in place for the start-up of these extra flights and, in addition, we have other improvement projects coming up that will benefit our traveling public,” Esterly said.

The airport also added new air chillers and fan coil units, a new HVAC system which has cut utility costs by 30 percent and new LED lighting. A new roof is coming next year.

rkelley@valleystar.com

 

A massive gray bill protruding from its face, the large white bird with brown wings — clearly not a pelican — stood impassively on its huge, platform feet atop the jetties one July afternoon. It was a rare Island visitor — a masked booby.

The booby, a seemingly fearless sea bird that plunges, dart-like, for fish in deep waters, was a topic of conversation during a talk on local summer birds hosted by Naturalist Javier Gonzalez at the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center (BNC) recently.

The masked booby — also known by its scientific name, Sula dactylatra — like the occasionally appearing magnificent frigatebird, is a pelagic species, meaning it spends almost all its time at sea, many miles from shore.  However, masked or brown boobies — two of six species of boobies — occasionally appear onshore, often in July, on beaches, piers or jetties.