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HIDDEN GEM: Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center

The center, which is free to visit, includes a science lab and exhibit hall for visitors to explore.

BAYTOWN, Texas — This week’s Hidden Gem isn’t just air-conditioned, interactive and educational. It’s also free to visit.

"We do a little bit of everything here," said Tracey Prothro, asst. director of Baytown Parks & Recreation.

The Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center might sound like an outdoor adventure, but this is a journey visitors take inside.

"They can come in and go into the science lab. They're welcome to go in and use our microscopes, explore in there," Prothro said. "There's a lot of things for them to play with in there."

But the real draw is the exhibit hall.

"This is their chance to see something, maybe touch something they've never seen, and get excited and go out and do something good for the environment and their world," explained Prothro. "We have snakes, lizards, alligators, fish, crabs, shrimp. We have all kinds of things for people to see if they come in and visit."

For example, the Gator World exhibit is home to baby gators, turtles and fish that you’ll find in wetlands around Baytown.

"We have a lot of natural history that surrounds us," Prothro said.

Like bees to honey, visitors are drawn to the center’s beehive, where you can watch workers hauling pollen in from outside, keep an eye out for the queen and get a sense of how the colony works.

"We would love for them to come in and get excited about wildlife conservation," said Prothro. "People take care of what they care about."

Whether that’s native birds or nocturnal animals, tracks or pelts, slimy or slithery, visitors can find it at the center.

"It is very fulfilling to come to work every day. You never know what's going to happen. You never know when something new is going to happen. What child is going to walk in and you know, have an 'a-ha' moment," Prothro smiled. "We all love those here."

Those moments can happen Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"It's the best part of my job," said Prothro.

Click here for more information about the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center.

Hidden Gems is brought to you by Dairy Queen.

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