Parks and rec lists 5 priority projects

HARLINGEN – The city’s parks master plan has been whittled down to five priority projects.

The total price tag for the priority plans, which range from completing an Arroyo Colorado trails system to major improvements to Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, is $9.85 million. Some, if not most, of the projected cost would be covered by grants and partnerships.

“This came out of the Harlingen Comprehensive Master Plan, One Vision, One Harlingen,” said Javier Mendez, parks and recreation director. “We can look for funding in the future, whatever funding sources are out there, but at least they’ll know what our priorities will be.”

The parks and recreation recommendations from yesterday now go to the City Commission but will have to compete with the priorities of other city departments. While all the projects from each department were contained in the master plan, selecting absolute priority projects for the next five years will sharpen the focus for commissioners.

Priority one is completing the Arroyo Colorado trail from Dixieland Drive to Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

Cost of the project will be $825,000 per mile, with a total of about four miles. Mendez said the project could be broken up into two phases, the first from I-69E to Dixieland Park, and the second phase from McKelvey Park to Hugh Ramsey.

The second priority plan is an ambitious proposal to use drainage corridors and streets to complete a trail that would run southwest to northeast from I-69E and M Street to Harrison Avenue and Loop 499.

Mendez said the 3.2-mile project would take advantage of rights-of-way already controlled by the Cameron County Irrigation District along the canals and ditches.

City Manager Dan Serna suggested the board find a way to link the trail project to the Harlingen City Library on 76 Drive.

“We could make it a second priority, but that connection is kind of important,” Serna said. “We should be trying to connect the library to a hike and bike trail system to all our other trails so that folks from TSTC (Texas State Technical College) or in this case from the other side of town can gain access to our library without having to drive there. They can walk or ride a bike there.

“That would in turn maybe remove some cars from the street and ease some congestion,” he added.

Serna added, when it comes to applying for grant funding for the project, a trail system that links to the library would likely make the project more attractive.

The board voted to modify the project and add the library link before it is presented to the City Commission.

Project three is improving amenities at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park. The plan calls for construction of a new nature/education/welcome center, improving the park’s trail system and its wetland ponds and adding new bird blinds for birders and photographers.

Mendez said potential funding could come from the Texas portion of the settlement from the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Project four would expand the Soccer Complex on East Harrison Avenue by upgrading the irrigation system, enhancing the condition of the soil at the site and adding restrooms. An additional proposal would cover two championship fields with turf.

The fifth project, a feasibility study for an indoor recreation center, would cost the city $50,000.

Serna noted the city has no such facility, and suggested the request for the study be incorporated into a plan to renovate Lon C. Hill Park instead of being presented to the City Commission as a separate request.

The board agreed, and moved to modify the proposal to shift the rec center study to the overall Lon C. Hill plan.