The South Texas Ecotourism Center (STEC) had its grand opening last year, but it’s still one of the newest nature centers in the Valley. STEC gives visitors the opportunity to experience the Valley’s native landscapes through displays and mini habitats on its property. The center has living models of six different ecosystems that can be found in the Rio Grande Valley.
The center promotes the restoration and preservation of the native landscape and brings awareness of the plants and animals that are threatened in the Valley and live in these habitats. Throughout the center grounds, you can find signs that illustrate the plants and animals living in the habitats. The signs tell of what to look for, what the animals eat, and how to preserve the wildlife and vegetation.
Visitors can view wildlife from their 25-foot-tall outlook ramp that views into the coastal prairie behind the center. The ramp also offers little outlooks on your way up to the 25-foot outlook area. There have been sightings of Nilgai, the Aplomado falcon, and so much more. There are also hundreds of native plants as well as a butterfly garden to enjoy.
The center hosts weekly and monthly events. They often hold lecture series that talk about the native habitat, view documentaries about restoration projects, and more. This past season they had Richard Moore show a documentary about the restoration of the Bahia Grande and had a lecture by Javier Gonzalez who presented information about the Christmas Bird Count.
The center is open every day, with free admission. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with staff and volunteers to greet and show you around.
For more information, visit their website at stec.lv.org.