INVISTA’s Victoria, Texas wetland project is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The wetland serves as an outdoor environmental classroom for the community and demonstrates Koch’s long-term commitment to environmental stewardship.
Submitted by Koch Industries
If you take a walk around the wetland at the Victoria, Texas INVISTA facility, you’ll see and hear all kinds of birds, reptiles and, during the school year, children laughing and learning. In the 25 years since the wetland was first constructed, more than 82,000 students and teachers have visited the education center to gain hands-on learning experiences about the wetland ecosystem and the wildlife that call it home.
“I’ve seen just about every single student in Victoria,” says John Snyder, the Victoria Independent School District environmental science specialist who’s been at the education center since the beginning. “I often hear it’s the best field trip they’ve ever been on.”
John’s been showing people around the wetland for so long that the children he saw when it first opened are now bringing their kids. Building those connections and shared memories has made the wetland a meaningful part of the community – demonstrating INVISTA’s long-term commitment to environmental stewardship while offering tens of thousands of children the opportunity to experience nature firsthand.
The students who visit the wetland have several opportunities to learn about and experience the wetland ecosystem. On a typical visit, John gives a brief history of the wetland and talks about some of the plants and animals that call it home. Then, they’ll usually do an activity, such as creating a plaster casting of an animal print or gathering water samples to test its chemical makeup. Trips also include a 1.8-mile nature walk that allows students and teachers to learn how to observe plants and animals properly, what the food chain is and how predator-prey relationships keep it all in balance.
“I love it when the students start to ask questions,” John says. “I want to see their eyes light up, and I want them to learn and really learn to love what they’re seeing.”
A lot of the kids that visit the wetland, he says, don’t have many other opportunities to experience nature. He tries to help them develop a love and connection with the environment. He says when people fall in love with nature, they tend to take better care of it.
The wetland is home to hundreds of species of animals, including more than 200 species of birds, 25 different species of reptiles, and nine species of fish. John has seen everything, from large mammals such as deer and bobcats to the tiniest frogs and spiders.
“A lot of this wildlife wouldn’t exist without the wetland,” he says.
More than 1 billion gallons of treated water from INVISTA’s onsite biological treatment plant flow through the wetland every year. The wetland provides additional natural filtration and biological processes that further clean the water before it is returned back into the Guadalupe River. The process allows INVISTA to return roughly 80% of the water it takes out.
“The wetland is a public demonstration of what our treatment system is capable of,” says Jason Leigh, INVISTA’s Victoria technical manager. “Birds, alligators, fish, you name it, they all thrive here.”
The Victoria wetland is especially important to wildlife during times of drought. Because it’s fed by water from the facility’s biological treatment plant, it’s always full, even when other natural wetlands in the area dry up.
INVISTA continues to invest in the project, including a multi-million-dollar overhaul in 2019 and plans to enhance the visitor experience to ensure it remains a valuable part of the community and home for wildlife for many years to come.
“People come out here and they’re like, ‘How can you have this right next to an industrial site?’” John says. “It’s because they nurture it and have done a phenomenal job caring for it.”
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