From: National Audubon Society
Published September 26, 2004 10:10 AM

San Antonio Water System Partners with Audubon Texas to Open Urban Nature Center, Audubon Center at Mitchell Lake Will Serve San Antonio's Southside Community

San Antonio, TX, Friday, September 24, 2004 – Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge, long a destination for tens of thousands of migratory birds, is now a little friendlier to a different kind of visitor – people.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) – which owns the Mitchell Lake property – and Audubon Texas are celebrating the launch of the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center. The Center serves the greater San Antonio community with nature education programs, using the resources around the 600-acre lake and adjoining wetlands as an outdoor classroom for visitors of all ages.

SAWS has long supported the lake’s use as a birdwatching spot but now offers visitors more access to the site through the assistance of the Audubon Society. Audubon will operate the 600-acres of leased property, and be responsible for facilitating public use and providing public tours and educational programs at the site. Audubon will also be permitted to conduct research there, and to work with SAWS to manage the property for conservation purposes. Volunteers from the community, including the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society, and local groups like the San Antonio and Bexar Audubon Societies will provide extensive assistance in the operation and administration of the center.

“We could not imagine a more visionary partner than San Antonio Water System,” said John Flicker, President of the National Audubon Society. “Early on, the staff and board there recognized Mitchell Lake’s exceptional ecological value, and its potential to be a vital educational and recreational resource for the community. Through this unique partnership we have an extraordinary opportunity to work together to connect people with nature.”

SAWS Interim President and CEO, Alex Briseño said that choosing the Audubon Society as a management partner was a natural because of its long involvement with birding activities at the site, as well as its reputation.

“This is a major advance for Mitchell Lake and for San Antonio,” said Briseño. “Audubon brings international prestige and helps ensure that the lake will have a key place in the environmental community. The improvements made to the property, and now the partnership with Audubon will not only spotlight this beautiful preserve, it also helps to put San Antonio on the map as a world-class wildlife tourism destination.”

To facilitate Audubon’s operation of Mitchell Lake as a public use and education facility, SAWS, in conjunction with the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society and the McNay Art Museum, recently moved and renovated an historic home to the wildlife reserve. The house will serve as the nature center’s headquarters and staff offices. SAWS has also made upgrades to the entrance of the site and improved interior roads and parking areas on the tract for visitors.

Additionally, SAWS is funding some of the basic operating costs during the first three years of the partnership. “The generosity of SAWS will allow Audubon to focus our efforts on developing and endowing nature education programs for the San Antonio community,” said Flicker.

Mitchell Lake is located on San Antonio’s south side, a community with a significant Hispanic population in the midst of economic growth and a cultural rebirth. Educational programs at the center will be offered in both Spanish and English to accommodate the city and will be geared toward school children and families in San Antonio and the surrounding communities. Hands-on outdoor activities customized to the area’s unique ecosystem will help visitors better understand the local environment, and encourage a sense of long-term stewardship. The Audubon Center’s outdoor programs will complement the lessons students learn in with SAWS innovative education program, “H20 University.”

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center also plays a key role in a larger, national initiative of the National Audubon Society to help children and families better connect with the natural world by establishing a network of hundreds of Audubon Centers throughout the nation. Audubon recently opened urban centers similar to the Mitchell Lake center in Brooklyn, NY and in East Los Angeles, where the Audubon Center at Debs Park serves some 50,000 Hispanic schoolchildren and their families. Urban Audubon centers are also planned for Seattle, Little Rock, Baltimore, and Columbus, Ohio.

Mitchell Lake, rooted in the long history of San Antonio and Texas Caminos Reales, has long been an unsung mecca for birdwatchers. In the early 1700s, the Spanish name for Mitchell Lake was “Laguna de los Patos,” or “Lake of the Ducks,” and it continues to be vital bird habitat today, attracting a broad spectrum of birds, particularly ducks and shorebirds. A total of 307 species have been recorded at the site, including Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Vermillion Flycatchers, and Eastern Phoebes.

At San Antonio Water System, we embrace our role as water stewards – managing water resources for the future, even as we recognize the rights and concerns of others. SAWS is nationally recognized for our programs in water resource development, conservation, education, watershed protection, wastewater treatment, and agricultural support.

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in positive conservation experiences.

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For more information contact:

Linda Vanderveer
Media Manager
National Audubon Society
Telephone: 212-979-3197


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