President Lynne Tate and Director Cristin Howard of the Birding Center attended the South Padre island Economic Development Corporation (EDC) meeting Wednesday to update the board on activities as well as on financial status of the center. Although the current lease contract is valid through September 2015, it was out on the agenda for discussion to address some specific issues within the document.
Howard was excited to share with the board that Oct. 21 marked the one year anniversary of her assignment at the Birding and Nature Center. The center strives for continued progress but has made significant strides over the past year. Howard said that the key to success has been the mending of fractured relationships and that they have stuck to their mission statement, which promotes education to people of all ages. Tate gave a short presentation on the financial status of the center, nothing that they have made tremendous advancement and have not needed money from the EDC in the last six months. Board members applauded their progress.
Volunteer Carolyn Cardile recently assisted in the completion of the calendar for December and January. Howard said, “On cold, nasty days (people) need something to do inside, and we have a calendar full of events.” The center will host a variety of events such as movies, presentations, and guided nature walks. Exhibits are always on display inside.
On Dec. 6, they will be partnering with Friends of Animal Rescue to do photos with Santa for a cost; and of course, pets are welcome. They will also hold a volunteer’s luncheon to show appreciation for all their hard work as well as a holiday party for Origins Recovery Center. The gift shop has been restocked, and Howard was proud to announce that at the recent Harlingen Birding Festival, the Birding and Nature Center had an $800 day. In addition, the Zodiac Sculptures Gemini, Taurus, Aquarius, and Scorpio, can now be seen on the grounds of the center.
Of even greater significance was the discussion regarding the Draft Lease and Operations Agreement between the EDC and the Birding and Nature Center. About eight months ago, a committee was formed to review the original agreement when many members of the EDC felt that the document was too loosely written. The committee met several times and made changes in the language and structure of the document. Ramona Kantack Alcantera, who was a member of the EDC at the time, put a great deal of time into rewriting the document, remodeling it in a landlord –tenant style, with the guidance of the committee. Recently, Major Pro-Tem Alex Avlaos proposed a workshop to give input from City Council on the updated lease. The Birding and Nature Center board has offered ideas for three small changes in language, and City Manager Bill DiLibero brought up some points for consideration. He felt that some of the new language is restrictive and should be removed. Tate and DiLebero agreed that the EDC, acting as the landlord in the lease, should be paying the property insurance to protect their assets. The Birding and Nature Center will likely take over payments for electricity which will require changes in their budget. Both the EDC board and Birding and Nature Center wanted to thank Kantack Alcantera for her hard work on improving the document. Tate said the lease was intended to be a working document where adjustments could be made if needed. The EDC determined that there was more work to be done on specifics of the contract and resolved that City Manager DiLibero should first review the document, incorporating changes that were discussed, and then move forward to City Attorney Paul Cunningham for further revision.
The Birding and Nature Center recently held the Zombie Walk, which was a huge success in terms of participation. It was great for publicity and will be held again next year with goals to increase funds raised by the event. There has been significant progress in the past year, and with each new event as well as normal daily operation, Tate said, “In the next six months, we are going to really see the potential.” The Birding and Nature Center has a ways to go before they can fully fund themselves but with the rapid improvement they have a long term goal to significantly contribute to paying off the debt on the property.