SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — A $500,000 grant from the Meadows Foundation of Dallas will help Southwest Texas State University convert the former Aquarena Springs theme park to an environmental education and research center.
The gift will help SWT biologists restore and preserve the San Marcos watershed ecosystem and create a system of nature trails and birding stations to provide hands-on educational experiences for students and visitors.
“Support from the Meadows Foundation at this level is vital to the restoration of the wetlands at Aquarena,” said SWT President Jerome Supple. “The fact that the foundation is able to make a gift of this significance to SWT is an indication of the importance of this work and an indication of the foundation’s interest in preserving the environment through education.”
Part of the wetlands restoration effort at Aquarena involves the removal of exotic species of plants, a project already under way within the SWT Biology Department. Biologists are replacing exotic species, such as water hyacinths, with cattails and other native grasses that will provide suitable habitat for animal species native to the region.
“We want to restore the wetlands to their natural condition to help educate the public about this diminishing natural resource,” said SWT aquatic biologist Tom Arsuffi.
Additional plans call for the construction of boardwalks with interpretative kiosks over portions of Spring Lake at Aquarena.
The Meadows Foundation is a private philanthropic institution established in 1948 by Algur H. and Virginia Meadows to benefit the people of Texas. The foundation’s mission is to assist the people and institutions of Texas to improve the quality and circumstances of life for themselves and future generations.
Since its inception, the foundation’s assets have grown to a current value in excess of $750 million, and it has dispersed more than $350 million in grants and direct charitable expenditures to more than 1,700 Texas institutions and agencies.