Victoria students take classroom to river

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 17, 2017 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Nov. 18, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Victoria West senior Francisco Pena, 18, and West junior Eric Martinez, 16, attempt seining at Palmetto State Park. Aquatic science students spent the day learning about water and the aquatic ecosystem.

Victoria West senior Francisco Pena, 18, and West junior Eric Martinez, 16, attempt seining at Palmetto State Park. Aquatic science students spent the day learning about water and the aquatic ecosystem.   Evan Lewis for The Victoria Advocate

PALMETTO STATE PARK - The boys had grabbed all the waders, but that didn't matter to her.

In a pink tank top, black pants and only thigh-high rubber boots, Faith Ramos plunged into the San Marcos River, where minutes before, Park Assistant Superintendent Jason True had warned there would be hellgrammites, the aquatic larvae of dobsonflies that have pincer-like jaws.

Another girl in a similar predicament didn't hesitate to join Ramos.

"I didn't expect to see those two girls dive in like that," True said later, "but that was awesome to see, especially in the day and age of video games."

Ramos was among 160 Victoria high school students to visit the park for a few hours this week as part of a collaboration with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.

The GBRA is a quasi governmental agency that is charged by the Texas Legislature with preserving and controlling the water flows of the Guadalupe and Blanco rivers. The San Marcos River flows into the Guadalupe River.

The field trip to Palmetto State Park was bankrolled by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Community Outdoor Outreach Program.

GBRA was one of 39 organizations to receive a grant to introduce underserved communities to the outdoors.

GBRA's cut was $44,000 of the nearly $1.5 million awarded statewide.

The rambunctious 18-year-old Ramos summed up the trip this way as she joined her classmates to grill herself lunch even though she was soaked from the hip down: "I'm not one to stand around and watch someone else have fun. I'm going to do it, too."

She explained this was a philosophy passed on to her by her mother, who owns Mamasita's Boutique, which sells trendy clothes to girls her age in Victoria.

"We dress cute, but don't underestimate us," Ramos said.

In addition to wading in the tributary of the Guadalupe River, the aquatic science students took water-quality measurements, kayaked, bird-watched and fished.

Eric Martinez, 16, and Francisco Pena, 18, were a little less graceful than Ramos when they dragged a seine through a pond.

They didn't expect to immediately sink into the pond's soft bottom.

"Keep your feet moving!" Elise Tate, Victoria ISD's secondary science coordinator, coached from the bank as the boys slipped and giggled about water getting into the sleeves of their T-shirts.

Cinde Thomas-Jimenez, GBRA's environmental education coordinator for the past 15 years, said she's been inspired by a book called "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. It was published 10 years ago, but the term Louv coined, nature deficit, still resonates, she said.

"Connections to nature, that makes for a happier, healthier student number one, but ideally, they'll become better citizens as they grow older. They'll realize their actions have an effect on things like water quality and wildlife," Thomas-Jimenez said.

True said it was a happy occasion for him, too.

Palmetto State Park is about 12 miles from Gonzales on U.S. 183. It was closed after Hurricane Harvey. Then, 80 percent of the park flooded. It reopened Oct. 1 after debris was cleared.

"This is the best part of the job, honestly," he said. "We're all big kids ourselves at TPWD, so we jump at any chance to get out here and away from the paperwork."


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