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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.


By Nubia Reyna Staff Writer

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.”


The goal is to be a world-class tourist destination. To achieve that, Island leaders are spending big bucks on marketing. The City Council has agreed unanimously to renew an advertising contract with a marketing firm from San Antonio. Last year, the city spent $2.4 million with the firm. The new contract is for $2.8 million. “In marketing dollars, that is the most we have ever contracted an outside company to do,” Mayor Barry Patel said.
The agreement is a joint marketing contract between the Atkins Group, the city and SPI Convention and Visitors Bureau. Officials believe it is money well spent.
“We should be spending every bit of that,” said Keith Arnold, CVB director. “It’s a good investment.” The marketing is geared to families and events that take place on the Island, which is dependent on leisure travelers, Winter Texans, meetings and conventions and event productions. Arnold said the marketing investment is all produced by the hotel tax, which is showing the Island is doing well with leisure travel business. The majority of the increase in spending is to continue to market on the Trip Adviser premium page and in airports and in-flight magazines through December. The strategy is to bring in more Winter Texans and families traveling through the state’s airports. About 70 percent of the marketing investment is being spent on placement advertisements using print and digital media, Arnold said.

By RAUL GARCIA | Staff Writer

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.”



WHERE — Louie’s Backyard



SOCIAL EVENT — 6 to 9 p.m.


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.


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

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

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.”


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.”



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


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

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

Alana Hernandez

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — A local organization is set to host its annual run on the beach in support of a good local cause.

The Port Isabel Rotary Club will hold a First Responders 5K/10K Beach Run Saturday, Sept. 7, starting at 7:30 a.m. at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Event Venue.

All participants will receive dry-fit race shirts and medals.

Winners will receive trophies for their age categories.

Runners can register online or in person at SOS Services, 2216 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island.

As of Monday, a little more than 100 runners had registered.

Proceeds will benefit the Rotary Club’s endowment fund, which provides funds to support first responders in the Laguna Madre area who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.

“We fortunately have never had to use the money,” said former Port Isabel Rotary Club President Bettina Tolin. “We haven’t had an instance like that since we’ve started the fund nine years ago, but it’s set up so that if a firefighter, paramedic or police officer here in South Padre Island, Laguna Vista or Port Isabel were to get injured on any type of call, we are set up to provide them or their families $1,000 per incident to cover medical costs or what have you.”

Additionally, funds raised will be used to recognize first responders for their heroism through special recognition awards and other Rotary Club service projects for the community.

Tolin said the organization gets a great deal of joy from honoring and celebrating first responders.

“The thing I think we enjoy most about this particular fundraiser is that we’re celebrating our local heroes,” she said. “These are the people that really put their lives on the line to save others in our community and they’re sort of the unsung heroes. So, we encourage runners of all ages to come out and support the event.”


WHAT — First Responders 5K/10K Beach Run

WHEN — Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 a.m.

WHERE — Clayton’s Beach Bar & Event Venue, 6900 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island

REGISTRATION — Online at https://tinyurl.com/y35vwry2 or in person at SOS Services, 2216 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island


• 5K run $25

• 10K run $35

• First responders and veterans receive $5 discount

• Teams of five or more receive a $5 discount.


5K & 10K

• Overall Male/Female

• Top 3 Male/Female in age groups — 1 to 14, 15 to 19, 20 to 29, 30 to 55 and 56 to 99.

For more information, email Port Isabel Rotary Club President Lonnie Gillihan at lrgillihan@gmail.com

Alana Hernandez

The operations of the Port Isabel Lighthouse officially changed hands this month with the Texas Historical Commission now taking the reigns from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The iconic lighthouse, which is the only one along the Texas coast open to the public, was built on the grounds of Fort Polk in 1852 and was decommissioned in 1905. It’s part of Port Isabel’s branding.

The light house is where the city holds its summer movie series and market days and will continue to do so under the agreement with THC, said City Manager Jared Hockema.

The city bought the land the lighthouse sits on and donated it to the state. The city will continue to operate the lighthouse.

Although Port Isabel officials last year voiced concerns about the transfer questioning whether it would affect some of the activities at the lighthouse, Hockema said officials met with the parties involved, including State Rep. Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville, in spring of this year and were able to come to an agreement to benefit all.

“There was a very constructive dialogue in the spring and we have been meeting with the Historical Commission to prepare for the handover,” Hockema said. “The city operates the lighthouse and we have an agreement with the state for that operation, and so our principal focus was to ensure that agreement continued.”

The lighthouse underwent a major renovation in October 2016 and reopened in 2018. Some of the renovations included replacing railing that now allows the public to walk out onto the cat walk. Hockema said the lighthouse has gained in its popularity ever since the renovations. The renovations were done by TPWD.

“We look forward to a positive relationship with the Texas Historical Commission. I think one of the positive things that will come out is that this facility will be one of their show piece properties. It’s the smallest state parks in the state but it is going to be one of their most iconic attractions that they have under their stewardship,” Hockema said.

The Port Isabel Lighthouse is one of seven properties transferred to the THC from the TPWD. Officials said the transfers were made by the 86th Texas Legislature on the recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. According to a press release from the THC, the action will allow both the THC and TPWD to prove efficiency by focusing on each agency’s core mission – “THC’s role as the state historic preservation office, and TPWD’s as steward of the state’s impressive natural resources and hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation attractions.”

“Texas Parks and Wildlife and their professional staff have done impressive work stewarding these historic places,” said Mark Wolfe, THC executive director. “We welcome this challenge to build on their legacy and continue the preservation of these unique sites for new generations of visitors to enjoy. We are pleased that we will be able to work with many of the same staff who have operated and maintained all the transferring sites. We welcome them and these sites to the Texas Historical Commission family.”

An official ceremony on the transfer to THC from TPWD will be held on Oct. 2.

“We are excited and looking forward to this Staff Writerpartnership with Texas Historical Commission. They have some really good ideas to enhance the lighthouse. I think we are going to benefit from being one of their top priorities,” Hockema said.