Even the light rain couldn't keep nature lovers away from the groundbreaking ceremony for The University of Texas-Pan American's Wildscape Garden on Wednesday, Feb. 9.
Nearly 70 people gathered at the garden's future site, north of the Student Services Building to celebrate.
In early January, UTPA was awarded a $26,000 Community Outreach Program grant by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to create a 1.5 acre garden complete with a water element and statuary. The garden will feature only indigenous plants from Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr counties and is expected to be completed by May.
The biology and anthropology departments are being afforded small plots to install their own indigenous plant selections and study many of the native plants used in folk medicine.
Dr. Vern Vincent, who co-authored the grant with Benham and professor at UTPA, shared his vision for the project, which was initially campus beautification. He said he later realized they would be developing an educational laboratory, not only for UTPA students, but for the community.
"I can't wait to look 20 years down the road and see what this campus is going to look like," Vincent said.
Oscar Villarreal, assistant director of the physical plant, was also a featured speaker at the ceremony and introduced the UTPA grounds maintenance employees who will be creating the garden.
"This project will give us the opportunity to show our community different ways we can landscape our own homes using native plants," Villarreal said. "Usually people think that landscaping requires a lot of money and time. Our goal is to give people ideas they can take home with them and put to use."
The landscape designer of the garden, Rod Russell-Ides of Dallas, was also present and talked to staff and student volunteers about the garden's design.
Nathan Schwarz, Student Government Association president, spoke on behalf of the student body and thanked those involved with the garden for their contribution to the University.
"It isn't very often you see people go above and beyond to donate so much of their time to put something like this together," he said. "What's particularly interesting about this project is that it will be a living laboratory."
Carol Rausch, assistant to the president, spoke at the event on behalf of UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas and called the occasion "a wonderful day to celebrate nature on campus."
Rausch quoted John Ruskin who said "nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty."
She presented glass paper weight mementos to the Wildscape Garden's main contributors and said the garden will serve as a place to create a painting in the Rio Grande Valley for students, visitors, staff and faculty to enjoy.
"Hopefully, many generations will come to appreciate the art and this wonderful painting that only South Texas can create," she said.
For more information or to volunteer, call Benham at 956/316-7996.