Laguna Atascosa’s bumpy ride soon to be smoother
LOS FRESNOS — Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge still has its ocelots and its magnificent birding habitat.
What it won’t have by next spring, weather willing, is the skeleton-rattling ride visitors and staff have had to endure for several years on the entrance road, Buena Vista Boulevard.
The federal highways project which is ongoing at the refuge will resurrect Bayside Wildlife Ride to again allow vehicle access along the road, widening an 8.2-mile section and converting it from a one-lane, one-way section to a two-lane, two-way section from the South Entrance Road to the Redhead Ridge parking area.
But in addition to restoring the popular wildlife-viewing route which was closed in 2013 after two ocelots were killed by vehicles, the county entrance road to the refuge, Buena Vista Boulevard, also is being graded and repaved.
“ I’m certainly impatient, I can’t speak for anyone else,” said Boyd Blihovde, refuge manager. “I’m impatient to get the main entrance road completed.
“ It’s been raining virtually every week and that’s really hampered the construction efforts. … but the construction company and the crews working on the road have been doing the best they can given the conditions,” he added
Last week was one of those wet ones, and refuge staffers, construction crews and bow hunters with permits for the refuge were all driving vehicles heavily-layered with mud as they drove in and out of the refuge.
“ If you consider dirty vehicles a problem, then it’s been a problem, or an inconvenience,” Blihovde said. “My vehicle just stays dirty.”
Completion of the construction, weather permitting, is projected to be in March.
Blihovde says once it is finished, the refuge plans to welcome the public back.
“ At the end of the project, hopefully in March, the plan is to have a grand reopening celebration event,” he said, “also celebrating the reopening of our visitor center store, the bookstore that’s managed by the Friends (of Laguna Atascosa) group.
“ We potentially will reopen the wildlife drive at that time but that depends,” he added.
Blihovde feels the improved entrance road and the re-opening of Bayside Wildlife Drive to traffic on a limited basis should breathe new life into the visitor aspect at the refuge.
“ I’m sure we’re going to have piqued the interest of the community to come out to the refuge once the construction is completed,” he said.