November, 2011The Red and Charline McCombs Tree House opened Wednesday, Nov. 2, as part of the new Children’s Discovery Area at the Cibolo Nature Center. A dedication celebration drew close to 100 participants and featured speeches from dignitaries interspersed with the delighted squeals of children who climbed up in the new tree house and slid down the slide.
Conceived and designed by engineer Al Groves and funded by a $15,000 gift from the McCombs Family Foundation, the tree house is an observation platform and play space about 15 feet high that offers views of Cibolo Creek and the adjacent landscape. Nestled into a grove of live oaks, the steel structure is surrounded by and covered with cedar posts to give it a “real tree” feel. It is accessed by a spiral staircase and incorporates a tube slide for children.
B.J. “Red” McCombs, his wife, Charline, and other members of the McCombs family were on hand to mark the event. “I’ve known Al Groves for many years and find him to be an outstanding individual,” Red McCombs said. “When he came to me about funding the tree house, I knew it was a good thing to do.”
He added that his family usually meets to discuss projects they consider funding, but not this time. “I didn’t think we needed to meet before agreeing to fund the tree house project,” he said. “As a family, we believe in supporting efforts for children such as this Children’s Discovery Area.”
Other speakers at the event included Boerne Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Chairman Jacques Dubose, Cibolo Nature Center Executive Director Carolyn Chipman Evans and her husband, Brent Evans, who co-founded the CNC with his wife.
“One thing that we sometimes forget is how important it is for a child to have a place to go outside and play – to take a break from their personal dramas, to be outdoors and feel the seasons, see wildlife, and create the fun that children need in order to feel hope,” Brent Evans said. “Years from now, families none of us will ever know will find an oasis of peace here, and hopefully be able to remember what life can be all about – family, fun and our place in nature.”
The tree house was the brainchild of Al Groves, who suggested building it for the Cibolo Nature Center and volunteered the design. Groves is the founder of Groves and Associates in San Antonio, which provides civil engineering services to public and private clients, with emphasis on waterfront and urban developments.
In addition to the tree house, the new Children’s Discovery Area includes a huge “snake” fashioned from boulders, a “secret path” through the nearby woods, a sandbox and a low, wheelchair-accessible platform where children of varying abilities can join the fun. There also will be tree swings for children and separate swings where adults can sit to watch their kids.
The McCombs Family Foundation gives more than 300 monetary gifts each year to community, education, and health-oriented charities. Over the past decade, the foundation has awarded grants for more that $200 million.
The Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne is located on 162 acres of natural lands at Boerne City Park off Highway 46 just west of the Kendall County Fairgrounds. The Cibolo Nature Center’s mission is conservation of natural resources through education and stewardship. Call (830) 249-4616 or visit www.cibolo.org.