By: Matthew JacksonThe History-
The Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center, located in Russ Pitman Park in Bellaire, TX (map), provides a unique opportunity for Houston residents to experience nature, literally right in their backyard. It is located right in the heart of Houston mixed in with a residential neighborhood near the Houston Galleria and Medical Center. The location boasts nature trails, a pocket prairie, wetland habitat, and the Historic Henshaw House.
Frank Henshaw, Jr. (Bellaire Mayor from 1935-37) bought
the estate in 1929 and it remained in the family until 1983. That year, Hana Ginzburg and the Friends of Bellaire Parks, Inc. purchased the 4-acre estate after generating support in the community and receiving a matching grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The house was turned into a community center through the work of volunteers and in-kind donations. Today, volunteers and staff at the Nature Discovery Center maintain the trails, plants, wildlife exhibits, and interpretive signs located around the park.
Activities and Opportunities-
The house now hosts the Discovery Rooms, which educate visitors about native wildlife in Houston. One of the exhibits is the "Swift
Cam", which offers a live video looking into a specially constructed chimney swift tower located on a trail near the house. Trails outside of the house wind around different vegetation areas including a pocket prairie and a simulated wetland
habitat. Signs in the park discuss previous land cover in the area which included vast prairies before development took over. It is interesting to see what the land would have looked like 100 years ago before being settled.
The Nature Discovery Center also hosts week-long, nature-themed summer camps, nature story time, Scout programs, birthday parties for kids. Additionally, The Nature Center hosts monthly lectures, bird walks at the
Center and in the neighborhood, and nature field trips to the surrounding area (including the Anahuac area). The Center also took part in this year's Great Backyard Bird Count in February. The public was invited to come to the site to record birds and submit their bird sightings.
This nation-wide event helps national level birding organizations such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Societywith research.
Why is it significant to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge?-
One of the first things you see when visiting the Nature Discovery Center is the bird sighting board. Ongoing bird sighting records and other "citizen science" events like the Great Backyard Bird Count are gaining popularity because of the relative ease to capture large amounts of data and the increasing number of people who are showing interest in projects. Anahuac NWR also participates in these events and counts on the public to capture data.
Facing pressure from developers and the public can be difficult, but the Nature Discovery Center is a success story for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. It is an excellent example of what individuals can do to make a difference.
It is sad to think that the land in this area will never again be the open prairie it once was. It is reasons like this that make preserving places like Anahuac NWR so important. Our local National Wildlife Refuges, for the most part,
remain untouched pieces of habitat that will provide invaluable information for research and a place for future generations to enjoy. Much like the Friends of Bellaire Parks, the founders of the Friends of Anahuac Refuge left us a legacy and the resources to continue to grow at Anahuac NWR, in the local community near the refuge, and the greater Houston area. Come enjoy YOUR National Wildlife Refuges. MJ
Information about the Nature Discovery Center courtesy of their website: http://www.naturediscoverycenter.org/