Preserving RGV’s Biodiversity


Quinta Mazatlan Introduces its Concept for the Center for Urban Ecology

Quinta Mazatlan, known in the Rio Grande Valley for its beautiful nature and birding center, as well as its historic adobe mansion, will be adding a whole new element to its grounds.

The City of McAllen, which owns and operates Quinta Mazatlan, recently received a $5 million state grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The main focus for the new development will be the Center for Urban Ecology (CUE). The CUE, currently in a conceptual model stage, will be the first phase of development. The vision of the center is a place where education and ecotourism meet. As part of the center’s educational goals, the city is partnering with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to offer research and educational opportunities.

“Our vision is that all grades will benefit,” said Colleen Hook, manager of Quinta Mazatlan. “The real advantage will be the college students that can study and research real-world problems facing today’s cities, or ecology for the city. We will attract professors and students who want to study urban ecology and bring it back to their cities.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 8.20.51 AMA Changing Landscape

The population of Texas is expected to double by 2050 to 54.4 million people, according to The Texas Tribune. With this anticipated growth, RGV city and state entities are working hard to ensure that our native plant and wildlife resources are part of this growth. Just recently, Quinta Mazatlan restored 4 acres of Ebony Grove. The team planted 40 Ebony trees and over 1,000 native plants.

“We increased the tree canopy by 20 percent,” Hook said. “You have to build more forests — the habitats, the green canopies — in order to bring the wildlife and ecotourism that follows.”

It has been documented that over 500 species of birds come through the RGV on their migratory journey. Hook and her team see that “ecotourism can be a much stronger business in the Rio Grande Valley.” The CUE will help play a major role in increasing local ecotourism and providing a platform for research and development.

“We want to increase the biodiversity and habitat quality in the Lower RGV,” Hook said. “The CUE will work to inspire ownership of our private and public spaces while improving the ecological health of our community.”  

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is among the most biologically diverse regions in the United States and is one of the best places for bird viewing. Part of the plan with the CUE and its landscaping is to have themed areas that encourage people to grow native plants. The team at Quinta Mazatlan wants to get people excited about these native plants and trees. Hook stresses how important native plant life is to supporting the wildlife here in the Valley. She shares a list of different plant life that is easy to maintain, and that can do wonders for the local ecosystem.

There are so many beautiful native plants that are sun lovers and drought resistant, serving as food and nesting sites for our birds and all other wildlife.

  • Smaller trees: Coma, Retama, Huisache, Texas Persimmon (Chapote), Wild Olive, Coral Bean
  • Shrubs:  Vasey’s Adelia, Fiddlewood, Barbados Cherry (Manzanita), Brasil
  • Plants:  Betony Leaf Mistflower, Scarlet Sage, Skeleton Leaf Goldeneye, Hairy Wedelia, Wooly Pyramid Bush, Cenizo, Pigeon Berry, Turk’s Cap, Prairie Milkweed
  • Favorite big trees (typically not for a home):  Texas Ebony, Anacua, Cedar Elm, Sabal Palm

$25 Million Needed for Development

The City of McAllen is very grateful for its first round of funding, but it will take an estimated $25 million to complete the whole project. The Quinta Mazatlan team is working on bringing in partners and naming opportunities for the Children’s Garden, the Skywalk, and other elements of the master plan. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling and city commissioners share the vision for making this new development a world-class Texas destination. It is an urban forest, 2 miles from the airport, and a true gateway to the region.

With the support of state and local entities, Quinta Mazatlan looks forward to bringing its conceptual model to real life development, one that will help change the landscape of ecotourism, education, and the Rio Grande Valley.  

The Visionary Plan for the Quinta Mazatlan Master Plan:

Center for Urban Ecology: Science labs and research studies for students

Gateway & Visitors Center: gift store, bronze sculpture trail, and landmark entrance

Skywalk: elevated trail system that will connect the Adobe estate with the CUE

Palm House: green sustainable building with a tree house concept featuring viewing decks, ecology museum, restaurant, and more

Palm Lake: with outdoor amphitheater

Children’s Garden: nature’s playground featuring mist garden, tree house, storytelling sculptures, learning courtyard, and more

Ropes Adventure Park

Texas Reptile Center

Avian Recovery Center

Conceptual model images are for illustration and discussion purposes only. Project is in development and designs are subject to change.