The Friends of Connie
after successfully organizing and managing the first of many
successful Hummer/Bird Celebrations in 1989, realized that more
needed to be done locally to improve awareness of birds and
stewardship of their habitat in the Rockport-Fulton area and she had
her sights on the Rockport Cottages property. Betty organized the
first meeting of a group of citizens who were interested in the
preservation of the property that was the former site of Jack and
Connie Hagar’s Rockport Cottages.
Founding directors of the Friends of Connie Hagar Inc. included
Betty Baker, Dan Baker, Clay Gillis, Margaret Boyce, Kay Jenkins,
Susie Bracht Black, Jesse Grantham and John C. Washburn. Betty
served as the first president of the newly formed organization.
With guidance and assistance from Susie Bracht Black, the Friends of
Connie Hagar, Inc. was incorporated in Texas in 1990 and was
recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization by the Internal Revenue
Service in 1991. The organization was established for the purpose
of furthering public awareness, interest, knowledge, understanding
and appreciation of the life, habits and habitats of the birds of
the Texas Coastal Bend as exemplified in the life of Connie Hagar.
agreement between the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. and the owner of
the Rockport Cottages property, James L. and Judith A. Samsel, for
acquisition of the property was signed in 1991. Also, in 1991, Kay
Olsen and Martin Cabaniss were elected to replace Margaret Boyce and
Clay Gillis as directors and Karen (Kay) McCracken was elected to
serve as an honorary director. In 1992, a $5,000 donation by Mrs.
Ceil Frost kicked off the fundraising efforts to purchase the
Hagar’s former property. Mrs. Frost’s contribution and
contributions from the Rockport Home and Garden Club and the
Rockport Rotary Club, along with donations from numerous private
citizens, were used as financial match for grants.
Grants from the Sid Richardson Foundation, Meadows Foundation and
the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation completed needed funding
for the acquisition of 4.25 acres of the property. Board members,
Jesse Grantham and Betty Baker, were instrumental in developing the
grant proposals for the needed funding. A bridge loan from the
National Audubon Society made acquisition of the property possible
while waiting for the awarded grant funding. Tireless efforts by
Advisory Board member and Rockport attorney, Lola Bonner, ensured
the smooth transition of the property from the Samsels to the
Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. The Samsels donated two acres of the
property as part of the land acquisition agreement.
property was acquired in 1994 and became the first named site on the
Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail in the same year. Site amenities,
including sidewalks, a hawk tower, and a freshwater pond were
constructed through an agreement with Texas Parks and Wildlife
Department and Texas Department of Transportation. After acquiring
the property, the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. constructed the
trails and restored oak motte habitat on portions of the property
with expert guidance from Gene Blacklock.
Activities of the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. include providing
nature-related educational programs for the public and school
children. FCH members also designed, installed and maintained the
original hummingbird and wetland demonstration gardens at the Texas
Department of Transportation Picnic Area and adjacent City property
on SH 35 in Rockport for several years. Caretakers of the gardens
included Kay Jenkins, Betty Baker, Kay Olsen and Pete and Peggy Holt
with assistance from local scout groups, volunteers and the Aransas
County 4-H Club. The Demonstration Gardens were later renovated by
and are currently managed by Aransas First (www.aransasfirst.org),
another nonprofit conservation organization in Aransas County. FCH
members initiated efforts with the City of Rockport to plant trees
and later to build bird nesting platforms on the Bird Islands in
Little Bay. Former presidents of the Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc,
include Betty Baker, Kay Jenkins, Martin Cabaniss, Cynthia Wommack
and Bill Hildebrand.
Friends of Connie Hagar, Inc. has a twofold mission: The first is to
preserve the history of the late Connie Hagar and her contributions
to ornithology, and the second is to further public awareness,
appreciation, and conservation of the birds of the Texas Coastal
Bend and their habitat.
Friends of Connie
Hagar Inc. Goals:
1. Develop and manage the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary as a
nature/outdoor education center to preserve and increase public
awareness about Connie Hagar’s contribution to ornithology, birds
and their habitat
Participate in and encourage partnerships that foster the
conservation of healthy ecosystems and bird habitat on public and
private lands in Aransas County
access to and participation in birding and other nature-related
opportunities in Aransas County
Habitats Found in the
Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary:
These woodland habitats have an overstory
dominated by live oak (Quercus virginiana) and sweetbay (Persea
borbonia) and an understory containing yaupon (Ilex vomitoria),
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) and vines.
Oak mottes once occurred in abundance within
the expansive coastal prairies found in the Texas Coastal Bend. They were
restricted from expanding by regularly occurring wildfires. Oak mottes
provide valuable feeding and nesting habitat for migratory and resident
Threats to these habitats include invasive
species such as the Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and
clearing for urban development.
Once prevalent throughout South Texas, coastal
prairies have been converted to agriculture crop production, improved
pastures, and urban development.
Coastal prairies in the Texas Coastal Bend are
dominated by the grasses seacoast bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
and gulfdune paspalum (Paspalum monostachyum). Other important
grasses include switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and indiangrass (Sorghastrum
nutans). Forbs are another important component of prairie habitats.
A recent invader impacting coastal prairies in
the Texas Coastal Bend is guineagrass (Panicum maximum) which
thrives from disturbance such as mowing.
Coastal wetlands refer to vegetated marshes or
shallow open water that may also contain submerged vegetation. The
vegetation associated with wetlands can tolerate “wet feet” and therefore
survive where competing upland plant species cannot. Coastal wetlands may
occur in salt water, brackish or fresh water environments.
Salt marshes and brackish marshes occur along
the coastline and serve valuable functions including protecting the
shoreline from wave erosion, providing nursery habitat for juvenile fish
species, and feeding and nesting habitat for shorebirds, wading birds and
Freshwater wetlands are important sources of
drinking water and food for all kinds of wildlife, even those we associate
addition to volunteer workdays, when volunteers from Rockport and
Fulton along with members of other nonprofit organizations come out
to help maintain the trails and gardens, there have been tireless
caretakers over the years who have maintained the Connie Hagar
Cottage Sanctuary including Bill Hildebrand, Pete and Peggy Holt,
Ray Little, Les Sorenson, Kay Jenkins and Manuel Diaz.
Friends of Connie Hagar regularly devote
their time and energy to preserving
the Connie Hagar Cottage Sanctuary.
See Our FCH Membership Brochure
Read FCH Strategic Plan
Contact Bill Hildebrand for more information:
FRIENDS OF CONNIE HAGAR
P.O. Box 2465
Rockport, Texas 78381