JEFFERSON — As spring progresses with warmer temperatures, East Texans tend to venture outside more and they’re sure to notice the newest art installations at the Port Jefferson History and Nature Center, courtesy of the Collins Academy.

The park recently received a new art installation, life-size statues of a mother bear with her two cubs, called “The Teacher,” as the mother shows her cubs how to survive.

Guests to the park can also see and walk under the Howe Truss train trestle, installed in 1907, which is lit up at night. The walking trail is also lit by strung lights at night. Also on the trail is a Honey Bee exhibit which allows guests to see honey bees in their comb at work.

The trail also includes QR codes at each exhibit, which guests can scan to learn more information about each exhibit on their smart phone or device.

Collins Academy founder Richard Collins has been working for years to use local resources to restore the park and surrounding community areas in an effort to increase educational opportunities. The most recent installments at the park serve as a continuation of that work, Collins Academy Director Gary Endsley said.

“The riverfront park, Port Jefferson History and Nature Center, is currently being upgraded to improve the visiting public’s experience in Jefferson,” Endsley previously said in a statement. “The educational outreach efforts at Collins Academy are creating virtual tours to assist our public and home schools and developing a new grant proposal for high school science education for deployment this spring.”

A life-sized metal stagecoach statue with two horses was previously installed inside the trailhead near the front of the nearby Jefferson Visitors and Transportation Center at 305 E. Austin St, near a life-sized Bigfoot statue.

“This artistic feature provides a great photo opportunity for visitors as they enter the park on the east end,” Endsley said. “It was not designed to be climbed on, so please stay off of it. Jefferson has a stagecoach history and positioning it here near the historic steamboat wharves, the Historic Jefferson Railway, and the building paid for by the Texas Department of Transportation made sense.”

The second piece of art installed at the park was the elk statue, near the bears, located in the center section of the park between Polk and Walnut Streets, within the native plantings area. The metal elk statue is a large bull elk.

“Although elk have been gone from East Texas for several hundred years, we had large ‘forest’ elk here during the Ice Age and when the first Europeans arrived in North America, elk were present across the continent,” he said.

Danny Hurt and Jeffrey Menifield installed the artworks while Sara Griffin and Jennifer Whelan prepared both sites.

To keep up with the Collins Academy’s work and future projects, visit their website at www.collinsacademy.com.

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