The 250-acre Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco is at the heart of the network of nine World Birding Centers in the Rio Grande Valley.
It is a popular birding destination for not only local residents, but for birders from around the nation. They all come to the park to view and document more than 300 species of birds at Estero Llano. The park’s infrastructure and facilities recently received a major boost thanks to two grants. The funds went to repairs on water controls and boardwalks that allow visitors to view wetland birds at a close distance.
The grants came through Friends of Estero Llano Grande State Park. The support group is made up of local residents who assist the park through funding and volunteering efforts. The sourcing of the grants is the Great Texas Birding Classic that awards funding for conservation projects. Ten such projects are in Texas with the McAllen Nature Center and Estero Llano among them.
Estero Llano offers the largest wetlands environment among all of the RGV sites in the World Birding Center network. A $5,000 grant will help control water for a portion of Estero Llano’s wetlands. A $1,000 grant will improve boardwalks nature enthusiasts use to view birds and other wildlife who use the park’s wetlands.
Estero Llano in the local community
The park draws birders from all over the country. Yet, Javier de Leon, Estero Llano’s superintendent, stresses the park’s connection to local communities.
“We do provide a great experience for eco-tourists, but it’s also very important for park staff to show the local community how unique the birds and butterflies are in the Rio Grande Valley,” de Leon said.
Estero Llano also reaches out to local communities in many ways. One of the most important is partnerships with area school districts. This provides science-based educational programs for more than 4,400 students.
“The mission of our State Parks is to manage state parks and historic sites to foster an understanding of Texas’ lands and heritage for all generations,” de Leon said.