Grant funds upgrades at McAllen Nature Center

Lantana Hill, the 25-foot high observation deck at the McAllen Nature Center with benches and a spiraling trail that leads to the top, was developed with assistance from a $20,000 grant.

Designed and built by McAllen Parks and Recreation staff, Lantana Hill is expected to provide advanced viewing opportunities at the nature center, which is a 33-acre site that features 220 species of birds, 90 species of butterflies and 15 species of reptiles and amphibians. Founded in 1960 as the McAllen Botanical Gardens, the nature center now has 20,000 annual visitors, the city said, with weekly wellness programs that include yoga, tai chi, meditation and a running program.

“I now invite everyone to come out to Lantana Hill and appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of our McAllen landscape,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said in a statement.

Set for a ribbon cutting Tuesday, the city received the grant through a 2017 online competition held by the National Recreation and Park Association in partnership with the Walt Disney Company, including Disney Citizenship, Disney/ABC Television Group and ESPN.

Called the “Meet Me at the Park Grant,” 16 cities received funding for parks projects. McAllen received more online votes than all other cities in the United States during the voting period in April 2017.

“I am so proud of our community for taking part of the competition to help the city of McAllen win this grant award,” Darling said.