Basin at Hugh Ramsey will limit pollution of Arroyo Colorado

HARLINGEN — The bio-retention basin at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is open for water.

The basin is the crowning touch on the park’s recent overhaul, which included paving over the gravel parking lot.

The 100-foot by 8-foot basin is a unique feature, since it will filter out pollutants such as motor oil and other hazardous chemicals that wash out of the lot. Those contaminants will flow out of the basin, and then through a series of wetland ponds at the park before re-entering the Arroyo Colorado.

“What we did is we changed the scope of the original ($158,000) grant and stuck it in as an amendment, saying we would build this bio-retention basin in the parking lot,” Javier Mendez, parks director, said yesterday.

Mendez said about two dozen volunteers turned out for the planting of native species inside the basin on Saturday during a workshop which was required by the grant, he said.

Those volunteers, he said, were from the Lower Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and the Arroyo Colorado Audubon Society.

“Mike Heep helped us with the planting material, and selected the material we should have in there, the plants from our area that are native,” Mendez said of the owner of Mike Heep’s Native Plant Nursery in Harlingen.

“What he did on his own is he said ‘this is where we’re going to plant the material,’ and he drew up a little diagram for us, which really helped out a lot,” Mendez added.

The overhaul of Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, a popular location for birders and others that does not charge an entrance fee, started in January. The park was shut down to visitors for two-and-a-half months.

“We look forward to expanding on that, and making some other improvements,” Mendez said, noting Hugh Ramsey park was selected to be on the priority list of the One Vision, One Harlingen Comprehensive Plan by the City Commission.

Mendez said the purpose of the park, as a nature venue, opens more avenues when it comes to the pursuit of grant money.

“We’re actively pursuing grants,” Mendez said. “And the good thing about it is it’s a nature park, so there are more opportunities for grants from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and of course the Texas General Land Office and their Coastal Management Program.”

The land office provided the $158,000 grant money for the Hugh Ramsey park project, which included paving of the parking lot.

The city has applied for additional grant money to fund construction of a welcome center.