Quinta Mazatlan’s “Discovery Center” officially opened its doors Earth Day 2012! The center is the new children's wing of the World Birding Center offering a fully equipped science lab, meeting room and large covered patio overlooking Ruby Pond. In 2007, David Guerra President and CEO of IBC Bank championed the project with a generous lead gift to promote environmental education and inspire the next generation to care for our native lands. The City of McAllen was also honored to receive a significant Parks Grant from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. TPWD Grants Director, Tim Hogsett was in attendance and was especially proud that they funded a project to be LEED certified—setting an example of building a sustainable future. Other important gifts included grantors included the Meadows Foundation, Shell Exploration and the Junior League of McAllen.
John Gerling, Chairman of the Quinta Mazatlan Advisory Board, welcomed guests and presented Commissioner Darling with a temporary LEED plaque announcing the award of McAllen's first municipal LEED Certified Building. The City of McAllen will anxiously wait to receive the permanent LEED award as to the level of the rating. The rating system is based on specified criteria with Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels. LEED is a certification process awarded by the US Green Building Council. So not only will the area around the building serve to educate, the building itself will serve as an educational tool. This Fall, LEED tours will be offered to school/college groups and other interested organizations. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa spoke and emphasized the importance of LEED buildings throughout the community and creating a sustainable future.
In addition to the building dedication, Ruby Pond was dedicated in memory of Karen Hunke's mother, Ruby Fatheree. Karen Hunke was a founding Quinta Mazatlan board member. Ruby Pond was designed by Allen Williams Wildscapes to attract and support wildlife. The saying, “If you build it they will come" applies, as the first week Green Kingfishers were attracted, a bird not previously seen on the property. Quinta Mazatlan’s ex-officio President, Rick Guerra, took a major leadership role in the growth and expansion of the urban sanctuary since opening in 2006 as the McAllen Wing of the World Birding Center.
Colleen Hook, Quinta Mazatlan Manager states, "Many assume Green Buildings are difficult to build and very expensive, but you can choose from a huge “green” tool box and use the simplest of tools. We did not use solar panels, a green roof or install huge metal cisterns--as they were not economical for our 3,500 square foot building—yet could be good tools for other designs. We chose tools that worked with our budget, served our programmatic goals and saved us money in the long operational run of the building". Hook goes on to share some of the simple tools like Patio Shading. Over 75% of the building has shaded patios that provide shade while outdoors and serve as "sunglasses" for the indoors. One can save up to 30% in cooling energy costs by just adding a patio. Another simple tool was the "L" shaped building placed in the corner of the property up to the fences. This plan saved a great amount of space to allow for more landscaping, habitat for the wildlife.
Another simple tool was the “Green Foot Print” as all the new plants are native to south Texas. Thus they are drought and heat resistant, need less water than tropical plants, and attract and support wildlife. In terms of recycling, many recycled materials were used including the concrete floors in the science lab made from ground up chunks of old concrete. A majority of the items left from the project were reused for other building projects—instead of being considered “trash” and sent to the landfill.
Hook states that the Discovery Center concept is pretty straightforward, “Designed for life, ourselves and the wildlife around us.”
The City of McAllen held the Opening Ceremony of the Quinta Mazatlan Discovery Center, children’s teaching wing at the urban sanctuary. (L to R) Dr. Ponce-MISD Superintendent, John Gerling-Chairman Quinta Mazatlan Board, Sally Gavlik-Director P&R, Russell Fishbeck-Regional Director TPWD, David Guerra-President IBC Bank, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa, Colleen Hook-Manager Quinta Mazatlan, Dora Brown-Senior VP IBC Bank, Karen Hunke-founding QM Board Member, Tim Hogsett-Grants Director TPWD, Father Tom Pincelli-Founding WBC Board Member, and 5th Grade MISD Class Skit titled “Creatures in the Thornforest”.