Armand Bayou Nature Center

The Armand Bayou Nature Center, located in Pasadena, Texas, is a urban preserve that lies between the Johnson Space Center (in the Bayport Industrial District) and the Bayport Industrial District. The largest urban wilderness preserve in America is located on 2,500 acres (10 km2).

More than 370 species are found in the nature center, including mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The center is home to more than 220 species of birds, many of which rely on it as a safe refuge during their migrations. The center and its surrounding areas are home to the following species: White-tailed Deer and Red-shouldered Hawk, Opossums, Crows, Armadillo and Coyote; American Alligator; Tricolored Heron; and the rare Purple Martin.

The center was established in 1974 and includes a boardwalk through forests and marshes, live animals, bison and prairie platforms, and butterfly gardens. The center also features the "Martyn", "Karankawa", "Marsh," "Lady Bird," (named after Lady Bird Johnson), and "Prairie," nature trails that allow visitors access to forest, prairie, marsh, and natural bayou habitats that were once common in Houston and Galveston.

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Although much of the Bayou remained naturally, the murder of Armand Yramategui in Houston, a leader of environmental preservation in Houston, spurred the active preservation. Yramategui was only able to visit the Middle Bayou a few times. However, the bayou was renamed Armand Bayou in his honor after his tragic death in a mugging at the Southwest Freeway in 1970. Concerned about the rapid urbanization of Armand Bayou's area, Yramategui worked to preserve the land as a wilderness.

Conservationists worked hard to stop Friendswood Development Co. from destroying the Bayou after Yramategui's passing. Norman Waldo, a Rice University biologist, conducted biological surveys on the land. He concluded that it would be ideal for nesting birds and should be kept indefinitely. Victor Emanuel, Audubon Society, said that the region is "like a centerpiece on an island. It enhances the whole area." Lawrence Dexter, Texas Conservation Council, stated that "[it] was important to preserve the surrounding area of a city to demonstrate that the city is compatible with natural areas." Hana Ginzbarg, a fellow environmentalist and friend, became the bayou's advocate to the Bayou Preservation Association. Her activism and work through the Bayou Preservation Association and Outdoor Nature Club were instrumental in the creation of the Nature Center.

Friendswood Developmental Company, a Humble Oil subsidiary, took over 15,000 acres of land for residential development and 7,250 acres of industrial development in 1962. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which used almost 1700 acres of West Ranch property to create the Manned Spacecraft Center, began residential real estate development in 1962. The Bay Area Boulevard was built in 1967 and made it easier for the public to access the middle of the Middle Bayou.

Jimmy Martyn, a local farmer, owned 28 acres of land which stood in the way residential development. He refused a $500,000 Friendswood offer until his death in 1964. His heirs then sold the property to Friendswood. The Armand Bayou Nature Center houses a recreation of a 19th-century farm named Martyn Farm in his memory.

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