Making Better Parks: Big plans set for new Adolph Thomae features

ARROYO CITY — At Adolph Thomae Jr. Park, it’s Friday morning, and the parking lot’s already half-full of pickups with boat trailers left behind by captains gone out to sea.

Jose Luis Barrera Sr. and family members had just finished a successful fishing trip on the Laguna Madre, and the fresh-cut, soft-white trout fillets piling up provided the evidence.

As hungry gulls circled and scolded overhead, putting in a claim on the skin and guts, Barrera admitted things at the immensely popular county park here tend to get crowded.

“You mean like parking way, way down the street?” he says, waving an arm this way and that. “Because there’s no parking. Everything is full here, there, and the next one over there.”

Barrera, fishing with his son, brother-in-law and his sister-in-law’s brother, is one Thomae Park user firmly in favor of more boat launch ramps and more parking.

To keep Adolph Thomae Jr. Park from being loved to death, county officials have big plans to smooth out many of those problems.

“It’s a little inconvenient right now with the limited boat launch area and parking,” conceded county Commissioner David A. Garza who represents Precinct 3.

The reason park improvements have been slow, Garza said, is the fact it’s located within the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

That means the county has to sign 25-year leases with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep the park open (the last lease expired in 2012), and the negotiation for a new one was something Garza describes as “a long and arduous process” also involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But the lease deal was cut, and Garza said things now are moving quickly.

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