Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I must admit, this was my first visit. I know. It’s shameful to say the least, but to my credit, I did visit and it won’t be the last time either, as I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with what I found there.
The Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center is located close to Robert E. Lee high school at 1724 Market Street and is owned and operated by the City of Baytown. I’ve walked past it twenty times at least, looked at it while driving, but never visited. I imagine I am one of many and this past week, I decided the time was right for a visit.
Upon arrival, I was met by Biology Intern Sarah Graham. She is very informed and quite pleasant, plus she offered to give me the tour. Sarah skillfully answered my many questions and it is obvious she knows a whole lot about nature and well – biology and our local resources.
She explained how Hurricane Ike had flooded the amazingly large facility, which originally was a bowling alley. As we talked, workers were replacing a lot of exhibits and doing general maintenance. She told me the Center was an undiscovered resource, which is a recurring theme here and one I’ve heard many times.
For some reason, many of us Baytonians are under the impression we need to drive fifty miles to see or do something worthwhile and it just isn’t so, especially when nature is on the agenda. The Eddie V. Gray Nature center has an alligator exhibit stocked with baby gators and native fish species and a visitor can get up close and personal, but from a safe distance.
I was particularly impressed with the science lab, where rows of microscopes were available to the public. I am going to make numerous visits to this lab and according to Sarah, I can grab a water or plant sample from my local ditch or pond and bring it in to see what lives in it.
While visiting the JJ Mays Wildlife Trace, I photographed a snake on the road and couldn’t positively identify it, but Sarah took one look at the photo and announced the snake was a ribbon snake. We walked to a section of the Center with live snakes and she showed me a real live ribbon snake. I was invited to hold the snake, but settled for a touch instead. Sarah revealed she isn’t really a snake person.
My tour guide explained the Center educates many groups of school children and each child leaves with a plaster cast of an animal track of their choice. I liked this idea, as many times while hiking, I cross paths with wild animals and through my own educational efforts usually identify the animal track correctly.
Another exhibit educates visitors on the biodegradability of various manmade objects and debris. I did not know that a cigarette butt was constructed mostly of plastic and can take up to ten years to completely degrade. I also did not know the cigarette butt is the most common item thrown out as litter and billions are thrown from passing cars in this country, every year. I know I see them on the trails quite often, along with other litter.
The Baytown area has salt, brackish (semi-salty) and fresh water and each habitat is home to specific species. The Center educates visitors in a unique way concerning each of these environments with a hands-on display involving colored plastic balls and simulated rubber fish and animals.
Yup; the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center is an undiscovered resource alright, but as more folks come by for a visit, that is sure to change and the change will be in us and how we view our local precious resources.
See my photographs here.
See the official website here.
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