Seaside Upgrades

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Closing off part of the E.K. Atwood Park beach to vehicles is among the planned improvements to Cameron County parks on the Island.

The park, at County Beach Access No. 5, marks the point that separates the pedestrian-only beach south of the entryway from the north part of the Island, where vehicles are allowed.

The county’s Coastal Parks Master Plan describes Atwood Park as the “most popular automobile beach entry point on the island” and the park with the least facilities of any of the Island’s two other major county parks: Andy Bowie Park and Isla Blanca Park, by far the largest.

The master plan, drafted by Halff Associates Inc. of McAllen, notes that Atwood’s shade pavilion, entry gate and parking lot are in various stages of deterioration and in need of repair. The pavilion’s restrooms, for instance, have been out of order since Hurricane Dolly in 2008.

With no restrooms and few tables or seating areas, the pavilion — currently closed due to structural issues — largely fails to serve its intended purpose, according to the plan’s authors.

The existing pavilion will be replaced with four small pavilions and one large one, according to Joe E. Vega, county parks and recreation director. The park also will get new restrooms, a community rinse station and two new beach boardwalks, he said.

Vega said the county also will improve the dunes in front of the new pavilions to help protect the structures. The parking lot will be redone with permeable pavers to alleviate storm water runoff, while featuring five handicap-accessible spaces and four spaces dedicated to food trucks, he said.

Environmentally sensitive LED lighting will be installed in the lot. Additional parking will be located across State Park Road 100, Vega said. The county is waiting for approval from the Texas General Land Office before putting the $4.2 million project out to bid, he said.

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