Sprawling City with an Urban Refuge
by Laura M. de la Garza Environmental Education Park Ranger SANWR
published July 2016

On May 23, 2016, the City of Alamo had their Watermelon Festival in downtown Alamo. The event hosted headliners like David Lee Garza and Sonia Trevino. I attended the event, but not to go and see the shows, although they were quite entertaining. I wanted to go and meet our urban neighbors.

I organized my display table and as soon as I put out our outreach event kit loaded with wildlife pelts and skulls you better believe I had a crowd. I was so excited in talking to the local families and hearing them reminisce about how the refuge was their playground growing up. It was a reoccurring theme to hear the locals talk about how they used to come out to picnic and walk the various trails on the refuge.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is located about seven miles south on Farm to Market road 907. The City of Alamo is known as "the gateway to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge." As an Urban Refuge our initiative urges us to go out in to the community and engage the public in our mission. The refuge is literally in the back yard of our city. Our neighbors are the many residents of Alamo, and let me say they are great neighbors to have. The people in Alamo are always extremely friendly and so it was great to meet and talk to so many Alamonians. It was an amazing feeling to be amongst the entertainment, food, activities, festival rides and various distractions and yet still have so many people interested in the refuge and our message. It was apparent to me that refuge is valued in the community of Alamo and by its residents.

I found myself talking to the parents of the many students in the schools where we do outreach. It never ceases to amaze me to see the same families come to the refuge and have the kids come up and say "do you remember me?," They pause as I look at them, "you came to my school and gave a program on Santa Ana."

I always get this fuzzy feeling inside, because I realize we have come full circle. The sprawling city of Alamo is growing by leaps and bounds and its backyard, Santa Ana NWR is open to the curious in nature and preservationist at heart.