Eco-Tourism Center moves to construction phase

LAGUNA VISTA — It won’t be long before construction of this interactive and educational ecotourism hub begins.

A contract has been awarded to Noble Texas Builders for the construction of the South Texas Eco-Tourism Center (STEC).

Cameron County Pct. 3 Commissioner David A. Garza made the announcement during a Laguna Vista council meeting held April 14.

Cameron County officials plan to build the STEC on 10 acres within Laguna Vista’s 23-acre site on the west side of Highway 100.

According to Garza, the contract for the project was awarded for $9.162 million.

“ It’s not a static number,” he said. “We’re still working on cost savings, but that’s what we approved.”

According to Garza, $740,000 has been spent on expenses for items such as architectural work, utilities and some studies and surveys completed on the property.

“ We also, some months ago, awarded a contract for $1.286 million to Scott Clark design group, which is the exhibit design group that we’ve hired to do the exhibits for the contract,” Garza said. “So we’re looking at about $11.2 million that is being spent on this project in total, which does not include the 10-acres that the town of Laguna Vista gave the county to build the project on.”

The STEC is planned to include multi-purpose rooms with interpretive exhibits, a rain catchment and grey water harvesting system, passive lighting and cooling systems, an amphitheater, pond and wetland enhancements, parking, pedestrian trails, a boardwalk, an observation deck, native landscaping, interactive exhibits, bird blinds and site amenities, a play area and picnic facilities.

“ At this point, I am so happy and elated not only for the town of Laguna Vista and Cameron County, but for the whole region that we are able to put a project of this type together especially during this difficult time,” Garza said. “I really commend our county commissioners and the judge for showing the fortitude to move forward on a project such as this because we’re in the midst of COVID-19.”

Garza said there will be 134 workers during the construction phase of the project.

“ There’s going to be six full-time positions that are going to be overseeing this project and that’s not counting our consultants like architects and engineers,” Garza said. “So we try to help the economy indirectly also by moving the project forward during challenging times.”

Garza said his current goal for the project is to award the notice to proceed to Noble Texas Builders.

“ We had a great bunch of contractors that were evaluated and recommended to the court and the court made a decision on one and we’re moving forward on it,” Garza said. “We’ve had previous experience with this contractor on South Padre Island on some major projects that we did at Isla Blanca Park that have been very satisfying.”