Snowbird destinations: Texas, Part 3

Texas Spoken Friendly

Rio Grande Valley continued

World Birding Center

The World Birding Center (WBC) is a network of nine sites along 120 miles of river road from South Padre Island west to Roma, with habitats that range from “dry chaparral brush and verdant riverside thickets to freshwater marshes and coastal wetlands.”

Altamira Oriole at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, headquarters of the World Birding Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mission of the WBC is “to protect native habitat while increasing the understanding and appreciation of the birds and wildlife.”

The nine sites include Roma Bluffs (in Roma), Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park (south of Mission), which serves as headquarters for the center, Quinta Mazatlan (in McAllen), Old Hidalgo Pumphouse (in Hidalgo), Edinburg Scenic Wetlands (in Edinburg), Estero Llano Grande State Park (south of Weslaco), Harlingen Arroyo Colorado (in Harlingen), Resaca de la Palma State Park (west of Brownsville), and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

Other protected areas include the Santa Ana National Wildlife (south of Alamo), Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (east of Rio Hondo), Sable Palm Grove Audubon Sanctuary (south of Brownsville), Frontera Audubon (in Weslaco), Valley Nature Center (in Weslaco), Los Ebanos Preserve (between Harlingen and Brownsville), Anzalduas County Park (at Anzalduas Dam on the Rio Grande River south of Mission), and Padre Island National Seashore

Nuevo Progreso

Green kingfisher at Estero Llano Grande State Park/World Birding Center south of Weslaco. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shopping is an adventure in the Mexican border towns. The recommended place to shop is Progreso, officially Nuevo Progreso. Park your car for a small fee on the U.S. side and walk across the Rio Grande Bridge. This little town seems to have been built just for Winter Texans. Every block has dentists and pharmacies, where you can have your dental work completed and save money on prescription medication. Mexican produced liquors, such as tequila and Kahlua are also a bargain. There are many fine restaurants in Progreso and shops sell handmade Mexican craft items, souvenirs, linens, blankets, and toys. Haircuts are also a bargain.

Progreso recognizes the economic contribution of Winter Texans by holding a Winter Texan Appreciation Day toward the end of March, with entertainment in the streets and free margaritas.

Winter reservations on the rise

In a recent press release (October 12) Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) indicates that preliminary reports suggest that the upcoming winter season is shaping up to be at least as busy, if not busier, than last year for campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts that cater to Winter Texans.

A Valley birder. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Our members are reporting strong advance bookings that are at least on par with last year’s figures, while some parks are projecting occupancy gains of five to 15 percent or more,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO. Several park operators said they were pleased with the pace of winter reservations for the 2010-2011 season.

Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle Properties, which owns and operates several RV resorts in the Rio Grande Valley, said its initial advance reservations for the upcoming winter were running eight percent ahead of last year’s figures.

Welcome Home RGV reports that more Winter Texans are expected this year because RV park reservations are up about 14 percent compared to last year.

Converted Texans

What do you call Winter Texans who decide to make the Rio Grande Valley their year-round home? They didn’t know what to call themselves—until now!

Historic Hidalgo Pumphouse. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome Home RGV, a self proclaimed Winter Texan chamber of commerce, and the city of McAllen recently invited hundreds of year-round RV park residents to participate in an event that converted them into Texans.

The term—Converted Texan—was coined by Welcome Home RGV Magazine owner and publisher Kristi Collier.

Positive features of wintering in Texas: Welcoming attitude toward snowbirds, availability of citrus and fresh vegetables, proximity to Mexico, Tex-Mex food, warm climate, social activities, birding hotspots, spring wildflowers, reasonably priced RV parks, moderate cost of living

Negative features: Breezy and sometimes unpredictable weather

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan!

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