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Most of us love the ocean, live near it or wish we did. For artist Connie Lovell, who lives in Harlingen, the ocean is her “heart and soul.”

Lovell was so bothered by trash on the beach left by beach goers, trash that washed ashore, and trash in our oceans that,  in the early 80’s, Connie became involved in the Ocean Incineration of Toxic Waste, where she met Sarah Kulungowski. Both Lovell and Kulungowski were advocates for cleaning up oceans and beaches – a mutual passion that would 35 years later lead to forming Washed Up Texas.

Lovell has created beautiful, mesmerizing sculptures from trash on the beach that washes ashore, with some sculptures as small as masks and as large as seven feet tall, 4 feet wide and weighing as much as 450 pounds. If you look closely at her sculptures, you will see the creativity that evolved from trash – plastic bottles, bottle caps, shoes, flip flops, brushes, sand toys, lighters, metal cars, trucks; the list goes on. The only paint used on the sculptures is on the stainless steel screw heads, to match the color of trash items.  Lovell creates these sculptures because, she says, art speaks to people and the message when viewing the art is clearly understood.

Kulungowski’s role in Washed Up Texas involves working with various volunteer groups that pick up and wash the trash, as well as, promoting Washed Up Texas at local events. Volunteer groups include the Texas Master Naturalist group from Rio Hondo. Their members volunteer to pick up trash and are able to earn credit for their volunteer hours, which helps them maintain their status in the group. Kulungowski is currently working with retired teachers that are part of this group in an effort to start doing school presentations for students.

Josie the Loggerhead displayed at Sea Turtle and donated by artist Connie Lovell. Josie was created from over 154 pieces of trash. Photo by Angie Gamez.

“Perhaps that one student that sees the sculpture will one day become the scientist that comes up with alternatives to plastic and how to break down the plastic that currently exists,” Kulungowski said.

Washed Up Texas has also partnered with the Cameron County Juvenile Justice system in San Benito. About 8 to 9 cadet volunteers that are on home detention helped pick up trash, drill bottle caps and make water splash with clear bottles during Beach Cleanup Day. All trash is cleaned using vinegar and water to kill bacteria.

Two sculptures, Humberto, the Great Blue Heron, and Miguel, the Mahi-Mahi, have been leased for five years to the Valley International Airport (VIA) in Harlingen. Both of these sculptures had been previously displayed at Sandcastle Days, Hallowings (Birding Center) and the opening of the Dolphin Cove Amphitheatre in Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island. Humberto, the Great Blue Heron, is about 7 feet 6 inches tall by 4 feet wide and weighs approximately 300 pounds. Miguel, the Mahi-mahi, is about 7 feet 8 inches tall by 4 feet wide and weighs approximately 450 pounds. As of April 2019, approximately 2,274 pounds of trash have been picked up from the beach at South Padre Island.

Josie the Loggerhead is on display at Sea Turtle, Inc., a donation by Lovell. About 154 pieces of trash were used to create Josie the Loggerhead.  Dolly, the Bottlenose Dolphin, had been on display at the Native Plant Center but is now home with Lovell where water and splash is being built underneath her. Other sculptures will be built for future events.

For more information, go to www.washeduptexas.org.

By Angie Gamez


Christmas trees can be dropped every Saturday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. from Dec. 28, 2019, to Feb. 8, 2020, at 4501 Padre Boulevard.

South Padre Island residents may place their tree curbside anytime until Feb. 8, 2020.

All trees must have ornaments, lights, nails, and tree stands removed before recycling.

All recycled trees will be turned into mulch that can be used in gardens to safeguard plants from winter weather.

Mulch will be available for free on a first-come, first-served basis at the City of Port Isabel Public Works Department, located at 217 W. Hickman, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Please bring your own tools and storage containers for loading and transporting the mulch.

For more information, call (956) 761-8123.

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — More than 100 people gathered Wednesday at Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island to witness the release of seven rehabilitated Atlantic green sea turtles.

The turtles were rescued, treated and released into the Gulf of Mexico by officials at Sea Turtle Inc., a nonprofit turtle rescue and rehabilitation center on the Island.

The turtles — named Dante, Lizzo, JAAMS, Stout, Cinderblock, Rainbow and Nickelback — were all Atlantic green sea turtles that were at the facility for different reasons, such as being stuck in rocks or being hooked accidentally by fishermen.

“ The turtles came in for various reasons,” said Nina Nahvi, licensed veterinarian at Sea Turtle Inc. “They were at the hospital for various amounts of times. Some of them were there for months, and others for just a couple of weeks.”

Nahvi said Dante was at the facility the longest, being admitted there in August. He was recovering from wounds. Other turtles were there for shorter periods of time, such as only two weeks.

“ All the turtles get blood work done, X-rays, medication — everything like that,” she said. “And all of them were more than ready to go back home.”

The ones that were at the center for the shortest period were Cinderblock and Rainbow.

An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc Director Jeff George shows the turtle to a large crowd on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc Director Jeff George shows the turtle to a large crowd on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc. on South Padre Island as volunteers help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
Seven Atlantic green sea turtles are ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday as Sea Tutle Inc. on South Padre Island as volunteers help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc Director Jeff George shows the turtle to a large crowd on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday as Sea Tutle Inc. on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday as Sea Tutle Inc. on South Padre Island as volunteers help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.
An Atlantic green sea turtle is ready to be released into the Gulf of Mexico as Sea Tutle Inc Director Jeff George shows the turtle to a large crowd on South Padre Island as volunteers and staff help release them during a public event at Isla Blanca Park.

“ They came in about two weeks ago, both hooked by fishermen accidentally,” Nahvi said. “It is a nice sunny day, and they are ready to go home.”

Sea Turtle Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” In 1999, Sea Turtle, Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd.

Originally, this organization was formed to aid in the protection and recovery of the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Their mission has since expanded to include other sea turtles. The group’s current mission includes three parts: education, rehabilitation and conservation, the official website reads.

Today, Sea Turtle, Inc. is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit that is funded through public donations and on-site gift shop sales. They do not receive any government funding.

For more information about future events, log on to seaturtleinc.org or call (956) 761-4511.


Nubia Reyna

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — As 2019 nears its end, a city committee is making preparations for the new year.

During a committee meeting held Dec. 10, the City of South Padre Island Shoreline Task Force took action on a few items regarding portable restrooms, native plants and a pilot program.

Portable restrooms

Shoreline Task Force Committee members and city council, voted to renew its contract with A Clean Portoco for the rental of 20 ADA portable restroom units at 11 beach accesses.

“Our survey said people are using the restrooms,” Mayor Patrick McNulty said during a city council meeting held Dec. 11. “They appreciate the restrooms and all of the customer service — and tourist friendly so I think that we can invest.”

The contract was first put in place in January of 2019.

The total cost of the temporary facilities cost close to $13,842 per month.

According to Shoreline Department personnel, the creation of the pilot program stemmed from the community’s request for more access to restrooms while at the beach.

In total, the city currently has brick and mortar restroom facilities at two beach accesses — Treasure Island Beach Access #11 and Gulf Circle Beach Access #3.

Boburka said the ultimate goal the city will look at is making sure there are more brick and mortar restrooms at beach accesses.


In October, the Shoreline Department was awarded a $1,500 grant from the Texas Urban Forestry Council to help improve the Island’s bay endings by adding plants.

According to Rolling Grants and Special Projects Administrator Erika Hughston, a big focus for the grant is adding community work and having the ability to access urban forest areas within communities.

During the committee meeting, members voted to place native plants such as Black Mangroves, Padre Island Mistflowers and Seaside Goldenrods in bay areas near these locations — Cora Lee Drive and Dr. Joseph and Jeanne K. Lis Memorial Park on West Esperanza Street.

Hughston explained to the committee members that those native plants are great for bird and butterfly migration.

According to Hughston, the project will take more effect toward the spring because winter is not a good time for planting.

Borrow bins

Rakes, shovels and other beach toys are items often found left behind on the beach.

During the meeting held Dec. 10, Shoreline Task Force committee member Abbie Mahan proposed a “borrow bin” program, which aims to combat the issue.

The idea of the pilot program is to place bins with toys at some beach accesses so beachgoers can borrow and return them.

“A lot of times, they’ll leave it on the beach thinking other kids are going to pick them up and play with them,” Mahan said. “They get washed out to sea and it finds its way back to our beaches, in our turtles and wherever else it doesn’t belong.”

Mahan said the program would start small with five bins.

“I really do think it’s something that if we go overboard and throw a ton of toys out there, we could see an influx of them on our beach,” she said.

Committee members voted to proceed with a plan to receive an estimate for the pilot program.

“Hopefully it’s successful and everybody is asking for more at more beach access points and that’d be great,” Mahan said.

They plan to discuss which beach accesses they will place the five bins during their next committee meeting.


With over 60 entries, the annual South Padre Island Christmas Parade delighted onlookers once again, as proud parents, residents and visitors lined the parade route to enjoy the festivities.

Beginning at Mars Street and finishing at the judge’s station located at the Padre Island Brewing Company, a variety of floats, marching bands, dance troupes, and decorated vehicles made their way down Padre Boulevard last Friday evening. Parade goers brought chairs, coolers, and even pets, securing good viewing spots along the parade route to sit and enjoy holiday libations and the performances of the entrants.

SPI resident Adrian Hill was enjoying the balmy evening of the parade, and commented “It’s a celebration of the holidays down here, South Padre Island style. There is great weather all year round so you don’t really get snow, so this is a good way to remind you it’s Christmas down here.”

When asked what he hoped Santa would bring him for Christmas this year, Hill paused for a moment then said “I don’t really know, I have a lot of what I want now, but if anything it would probably be more car parts,” he said, laughing.

There were a variety of participants in this year’s parade. Friends of Animal Rescue brought their adoptable dogs to walk the parade route, gymnasts cartwheeled and flipped, and precision marching and holiday music was offered from the Port Isabel Marching Band, directed by Scott Hartsfield.

Frank Barroso from Port Isabel, Texas stood on the parade route, dressed in a Santa outfit. When asked what he enjoys about the parade, Barroso answered “The joy and laughter and kids,” adding “I brought my own candy, so I’m throwing it at ’em. I know they’re throwing at us, but I’m throwing it back!”

As the paraders approached the reviewing stand, onlookers were treated to music and dance performances from kids of all ages, from tiny tots to high schoolers. Dressed in festive holiday costumes, the children gave their best efforts to delight the crowds with their well-practiced routines, demonstrating hours of hard work and preparation.

From the front seat of their golf cart, Cheryl Colebank and Michelle Thompson, winter Texans from Colorado and Canada respectively, viewed the festivities and performances of this year’s annual event.

“The parade is something we partake in every year,” said Colebank, with Thompson chiming in, “It’s great to see the local people come out and put on a great parade.”

Taking first place in the parade competition were the Port Isabel Junior High Silver Stars, winning the coveted $500 prize. Local nonprofit organization Friends of Animal Rescue took second place, taking home $300; garnering a third place win and a prize of $200 were the Port Isabel High School Silver Bells; and finishing out the category were the Port Isabel Marching Band and Gio-nastics, each winning honorable mentions and $100 prizes.

– Pamela Cody

Thousands of spectators lined the shoreline of the Laguna Madre Bay Saturday evening to enjoy the annual  South Padre Island Lighted Boat Parade.

A phalanx of vessels departed from Southmost Marina in Port Isabel at 6pm, crossed under the Queen Isabella Causeway, then cruised along the waterline from Palm Street to Jim’s Pier in the entertainment district. Every available parking space on the bayside was filled as parade goers looked for viewing spots to see the brightly lit, cheerfully decorated holiday boats.

Restaurants and bars were packed with customers, the brisk business being welcomed by merchants during what is usually a slow time of the year. Claudia Hernandez, her husband and 3 children were one of the many families who travelled to the Island to witness the floating parade.

“We live up in McAllen and have always wanted to come to this boat parade, but this is the first time we finally made it down to the Island to see it,” Hernandez said, while her middle child, Araceli, exclaimed “I wanna see Santa!” eliciting chuckles from her family. Claudia’s husband, Rosendo, commented, saying “This is a beautiful display on the bay, the colored lights reflecting on the water are incredible.”

Photo by Pamela Cody.

This was the 31st year of the parade, making it one of the most popular and long standing traditions on South Padre Island. Boats of all sizes were in the procession, from small personal watercraft to large commercial vessels. Designs were whimsical and varied, from the Grinch and Santa to frolicking dolphins, reindeer, snowmen and candy canes.

Winter Texans Bob and Phyllis Mullins, visiting from Kenosha, Wisconsin, were witnessing their first Island boat parade. Phyllis reflected on the spirit of the season, noting “Seeing the whole community come out and get into the holiday spirit, it really makes it feel like Christmas. Small town celebrations are the best, this is what it’s about – families together, kids, Santa, and all the magic of the Christmas season.”

There were 3 categories of boat sizes for the judge’s consideration. In the small/medium category, Tritoon Charters took first place, followed by Having Faith and We Fish You a Merry Christmas in second and third; in the large boat division, Daddy’s Hands took top honors, with Tula and Noemi II coming in second and third; in the commercial category, Breakaway Tours captured the top prize, with second and third going to Murphy’s Law and Ka Motion.

-Pamela Cody

Brownsville and Cameron County’s hike-and-bike trail network will be the first in Texas officially part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System if the Texas Department of Transportation’s application to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is approved.

AASHTO, which coordinates state highway departments around the country, designates and catalogs USBRS routes. More than 14,000 miles have been officially designated as part of the system in 27 states and Washington D.C., connecting urban, suburban and rural areas. Many more routes are proposed around the country. USBRS will total 50,000 miles when complete.

Proposed routes include a north-south route connecting Brownsville with Dallas-Fort Worth and an east-west route linking El Paso to East Texas, though to date no URBRS routes have been designated in the state, according to Ramiro Gonzalez, the city’s director of government affairs, who gave a presentation on the URBRS application during the Dec. 10 city commission meeting.

“There’s no designated bike route system in Texas, and that’s really because no other region or city has really thought about it,” he said. “If this process is successful, Brownsville and Cameron County would be the first designated part of the bike route system in Texas.”

TxDOT tapped Brownsville and Cameron County because of work done on Caracara Trails, formerly the Active Transportation and Active Tourism Plan, a proposed 428-mile trail network connecting communities via more than 230 miles of multi-use trails, 78 miles of paddling trails and 120 miles of on-street USBRS route.

“The USBRS is actually the easiest part of this plan in the sense that it takes the least amount of funding to put up a sign and designate something the ‘U.S. Bike Route System,’ “ Gonzalez said.

Combes to South Padre Island would be designated USBR 255. From Combes to Brownsville through Los Indios and Harlingen would be designated USBR 55. In Brownsville, the routes would follow F.M. 281 and S.H. 48. Gonzalez said signage is “nice but not required” and that the designation comes down to prestige.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It’s just a designation.”

The goal of Caracara Trails is to diversify tourism and contribute to the economy while linking communities and encouraging healthier lifestyles, Gonzalez said. His presentation cited the economic impact of trail systems elsewhere in the United States.

The Great Allegheny Passage between Maryland and Pennsylvania, for instance, generates $100 million in annual spending, while the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia generals $120 million a year and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail $1.8 million in annual spending by non-locals, Gonzalez said.

It’s estimated that Caracara Trails’ six “catalyst projects” would generate $70 million in annual spending, he said. Among them is the Bahia Grande Segment, which Gonzalez described as “perhaps the signature project” of Caracara Trails. The 18- to 20-mile-long segment would connect Brownsville via the Historic Battlefield Trail to Laguna Vista and the Bahia Grande Unit of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

“You can kind of start to think what kind of attraction this would be to tourism,” Gonzalez said.

In Laguna Vista, the Bahia Grande trail would terminate at the South Texas Eco-Tourism Center, a joint project of Laguna Vista and the county that has gone out to bid, he said. Another catalyst project is the Laguna Madre Segment, which would connect the county’s coastal and bayside communities with Laguna Atascosa and comprise part of USBR 55.

Gonzalez said the city is proud Caracara Trails was tapped for TxDOT’s first application for USBRS designation, which could be approved by June.

“I think that says a lot for the work that’s been put into this plan,” he said. “It’ll bring the vision, it’ll bring bicycle tourism, it’ll be a destination and it just puts us on the map.”


On Friday, December 6, the City of South Padre Island welcomes the public as they kick off the holiday season with their Christmas Tree Lighting, at SPI City Hall from 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. After the Tree Lighting ceremony, the 31st Annual Christmas Parade will follow from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ]

The parade will travel on Padre Boulevard, starting from Mars Lane and ending at Kingfish Street. Debbie Huffman, Parks and Recreation manager for the City of South Padre Island, stated, “There are 58 entries this year. The judging will take place in front of the Padre Island Brewing Company. The prizes awarded will be 1st Place $500, 2nd Place $300, 3rd Place $200 and 2 finalist $100 each. We are honored to have Gabriella Garza and Michael Scott from KRGV Channel 5 as the emcees this year.” The City of South Padre Island Parks and Keep SPI Beautiful Committee organize the parade.

On Saturday, December 7, the annual Lighted Boat Parade will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. There will be several designated viewing areas throughout the route. The route will start at South Point Marina in Port Isabel and judging will take place at The Painted Marlin Grille on South Padre Island. There will be a $500 cash prize for the top boat in each category. Other prizes include hotel night stays and gift cards from Island businesses.


SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Visitors of this coastal city will soon be able to celebrate a few holiday festivities with its permanent sea turtle residents.

Sea Turtle, Inc. will host its free annual Wassailing with the Turtles get-together Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the facility’s Education Complex.

During the holiday event, guests will be able eat appetizers, drink wassail and sing Christmas carols to the non-releasable sea turtles at the facility.

“ We usually have this evening event to enjoy the sunset out on the bay and to sing to our sea turtle named Merry Christmas,” said Sanjuana Zavala, Sea Turtle, Inc.’s Marketing and Public Relations Officer. “A lot of members from the community always like to stop by to catch up and take some photos for the holidays.”

During the event, visitors will also be able to do some holiday shopping at the facility’s gift shop.

Attendees will receive a 10 percent discount if they bring an item on Friends of Animal Rescue’s Christmas wish list.

The nonprofit’s next Christmas event is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for pictures at the facility from 11 a.m. to noon.

Additionally, there will be a cookie decorating station for children.

The event is free with the purchase of admission.

Friends of Animal Rescue Christmas Wish List
• Kongs
• Litter
• Bully sticks
• Clothes dryer
• Cat scratchers
• Heavy duty leashes
• Plastic water pitchers
• Harnesses and collars

WHAT — Wassailing with the Turtles
WHEN — Thursday, Dec. 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
WHERE — Sea Turtle Inc. Education Complex, 6617 Padre Boulevard, South Padre Island
COST — Free


The price is the first thing buyers notice about your property. If you set your price too high, then the chance of alienating buyers is higher. You want your house to be taken seriously, and the asking price reflects how serious you are about selling your home.

Several factors will contribute to your final decision. First, you should compare your house to others that are in the market. If you use an agent, he/she will provide you with a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis). The CMA will reflect the following:

From the CMA, you will learn the difference between the asking price and selling price for all homes sold, the condition of the market, and other houses comparable to yours.

Also, try to find out what types of houses are selling and see if it applies to your area. Buyers follow trends, and these trends can help you set your price.

Always be realistic. Understand and set your price to reflect the current market situation.