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Shangri La is back again, and it’s not only asset

September 13, 2018

If there were an award for institutional persistence, the folks who run the Shangri La Botanical Garden & Nature Center in Orange would be a clear favorite. The gardens are reopening this week after being closed more than a year after being swamped by the waters of Tropical Storm Harvey. That’s impressive enough, but it’s very similar to what happened to Shangri La after Hurricane Rita in 2005 … and then Ike in 2008.

Three times in 12 years, a place dedicated to showcasing the best of nature was devastated by nature. Each storm brought different kinds of damage. Yet all three times, the folks at the Stark Foundation refused to give up. They rebounded and rebuilt, and once again Shangri La is available to anyone who wants to take in one of the most amazing collections of plants, flowers, shrubs and trees just about anywhere.

If you lived in Houston or New Orleans, you might expect to enjoy something like this. You’d be right, but that’s the beauty of Shangri La: It’s not somewhere else. It’s right here. If you haven’t visited it yet, you’re missing a rich experience. If you haven’t brought visiting friends or family members there, you’re shortchanging them, too.

Oh, and by the way, it’s not the only natural asset around here like this either.

The Big Thicket National Preserve is one of most diverse sites in the country’s network. It has nine different ecosystems, from cypress-lined bayous to longleaf pine forests. You can hike more than 40 miles of trails, or paddle a canoe over many more miles of creeks, bayous or the Neches River.

The hundreds of acres of Tyrrell Park on the western edge of Beaumont contain their own gem of a botanical garden — plus the Cattail Marsh Scenic Wetlands and Boardwalk. You might see anything there from a pelican to an alligator.

In addition to established places like this, Southeast Texas has vast expanses of marsh and beach waiting for someone to explore, photograph or just savor.

There’s a lot to see and do outdoors, and sometimes we overlook what’s in our own virtual backyard. We’ve all heard the legend of New Yorkers who never visited the Statue of Liberty. In Southeast Texas, don’t be that person with venues like Shangri La, the Big Thicket or other attractions. They’re just a short drive away, and they’re worth your time.

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