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City cuts ribbon on eco-friendly welcome sign

By ALLISON MILES
May 6, 2013 at 12:06 a.m.

Pat de Leon, of Victoria; Blanche de Leon, of Victoria; and Patricia de Leon de Luna, of Houston, talk about their family history in Victoria after the dedication for the new welcome sign monument at the entrance to the city near the Moody Street Bridge in Victoria.

Did you know?

Facts about Martin de Leon:

• Martin de Leon was born in 1765 to an aristocratic family in New Spain.

• He became a merchant, provided military service and eventually married a general's daughter.

• Forty-one families took part in that initial settlement.

• The founder was among the casualties of an 1833 cholera outbreak, dying at age 68.

Source: Jeff Wright, executive director with Victoria Preservation, Inc.

It took months of planning, materials and services and thousands of dollars to create the large stone "Welcome to Victoria" sign just off Southwest Moody Street.

Once complete, however, maintenance should be little to none.

Plans are in the works to install solar panels within the coming weeks to light the sign solely through the sun's power, said O.C. Garza, communications director for the city of Victoria. The city also hopes to work with area Boy Scouts to landscape in a way that doesn't require water.

"It's a green project that also celebrates our history," he said of the sign, which boasts the phrase "Founded by Martin de Leon." "And we think it's a fabulous design that welcomes everybody to Victoria."

Community members, city officials and family members of Victoria founder Martin de Leon gathered Monday morning for a ribbon cutting at the sign, which sits at 808 Moody St.

Monday marked the beginning of National Travel and Tourism Week, and it seemed fitting that Victoria would cut the ribbon when it did, said LaRue Roth, director of the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"Gateway welcome signs make a statement about the communities they represent," she said, talking above the sounds of passing traffic. "I believe this sign reflects Victoria's strength, its beauty and its unique place in Texas history."

Roth, in an email, said the sign's materials and construction cost $25,419.99. Funds came from the city's hotel occupancy tax dollars, she said, and the amount includes the cost for the solar lighting.

It replaces a former welcome sign the Victoria Jaycees built in the late 1970s, she said. Eagle Scouts refurbished it in the late 1990s. No city funds were used for that sign.

The new marker was a team effort, she said, noting the City Council approved funding, and companies donated design services. Adkins Masonry and Sign Works won bids to carry out the work.

The plan moving forward, Garza said, is for Victoria to play home to other similar signs in the coming years.

The city hopes to introduce three new welcome signs - one a year - for the next three years. That includes locations on Port Lavaca Highway, U.S. Highway 77 North and U.S. Highway 87.

Blanche de Leon, one of the founder's descendants, attended Monday's event with two of her cousins. She said the sign was a nice addition to the city but said the family had an emotional attachment to the previous one.

Still, she said, the replacement offers a bit of a history lesson.

"The first Presidio La Bahia was made of wood, and it does not exist today," she said. "So that material, that building material, does not stand the test of time. But this one sure will, and we're excited about that."

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