Cyclists get a peek at restored Bahia Grande

LOS FRESNOS — Cyclists had the first peek of a restored portion of the Bahia Grande on a slow and relaxed 7.5 mile bike tour hosted by the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge yesterday afternoon.

Three guides led the cyclists on a caliche trail that passes through coastal prairies and salt water bays.

If the riders had brought along their binoculars, they might have even had the chance to see the rare and endangered aplomado falcons.

“We knew that normally people can’t go through this part of the park,” said Jim Skripka, a Winter Texan from Michigan. “It (was) great because we were on bikes and we got to see things and take it slow.”

Skripka and his wife Lynne have done bike trails, but this was their first time participating in a bike tour.

“We’ve gone down bike trails but bike tours are a first for us, and we’re in our seventies. I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Skripka said.

Along the tour, the cyclists would stop and learn about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, and about the restoration efforts in the area, said Steve Maier, volunteer and bike guide with the refuge.

“We’ve reintroduced water into the area and at the moment are trying to kill the invasives so we have a prairie look rather than the thorn scrub we saw before,” said Matthew Torres, intern and bike guide with the refuge.

This is the first Saturday tour through the Bahia Grande and cyclists will have more opportunities to do the ride until the end of March.

“It’s not a contest of endurance. This is a slow, leisurely ride to see what the place is like,” Maier said.

James Carlson and his wife Pat, Winter Texans from Colorado, had to wait a week after last Saturday’s ride was cancelled. Their hope was to see some of the wildlife in Bahia Grande.

“Really, this (was just an excuse to ride a bike, see some wildlife, and learn some things,” Carlson said.

Non-cyclists will have an opportunity to see the same stretch of land on Feb. 13. People will be able to drive their vehicles through a few stations, learning more about Bahia Grande and the local wildlife.