By Erik Onstott
The Orange Leader
The opening of the Shangri-La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, originally scheduled for October 5, has been moved back to March 2008.
Shangri-La executive director Michael Hoke said the weather was the driving factor behind the decision.
“We just had some insurmountable barriers,” Hoke said. “I stepped out there this morning and the mud was ankle-deep.”
The area has indeed seen much more rain than normal. According to AccuWeather.com, the normal precipitation for the month of July — as measured at Southeast Texas Regional Airport — is 5.49 inches; the amount of rain which fell in July 2007 was more than double that amount, at 12.76 inches.
Hoke emphasized, however, that construction at Shangri-La was proceeding on schedule.
“The main thing is not four months of postponement,” he said. “If you drive by, you’ll see the construction going on.”
The orientation center and the botanical gardens will be closed until March; however, Hoke said, the nature center — which occupies about 150 acres of the 250-acre facility — would still be open, albeit only for school tours. Visitors to the nature center will be able to tour the area via boardwalks and pontoon boats.
“We want to wait until we get things ready,” Hoke said. “I am sure the citizens of Orange will understand. We want to give the people of Orange the best product we can give them.”
Hoke said no firm date had been scheduled for the March opening.
The original Shangri-La was built by Lutcher Stark in 1937; after a snowstorm struck Southeast Texas in 1958, the gardens were closed for 40 years. The Stark Foundation decided to restore the garden to its original condition in 2002.
Volunteer opportunities are available for interested individuals, among them boat drivers, docents — who work with elementary and miiddle school students during the boat trips — and gardeners; certain positions will require training, which Shangri-La will provide.
For more information on volunteering at Shangri-La, call 409-670-9113.
Reach this reporter at 409-883-3571, Ext. 2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org