Thousands of native aquatics will be planted in park ponds

HARLINGEN — The ponds are deeper, lined with thick black plastic, and ready for nature to take its course.

The current project to overhaul Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is taking on its final form, with the wetland ponds one of the last items to be brought into play.

“This is an old landfill that Hugh Ramsey Nature Park’s on,” Jeff Lyssy, parks superintendent, told the parks and recreation board yesterday. “Methane gases can escape and they could possibly push the liner up, so we are holding it in place with this bull rock which also serves as a decorative, aesthetic-type deal.”

The renovation of the popular Hugh Ramsey Nature Park has gone on for months, funded primarily with a $158,000 grant from the Texas General Land Office and their Coastal Management Program.

In addition to the deepening of the ponds, a bio-retention basin was installed in the newly paved parking lot, and the basin will filter pollutant run-off from the parking lot which will then flow to the ponds and finally into the nearby Arroyo Colorado.

Those ponds, as of yesterday, were already starting to fill with the rains this week.

“The exciting part of this project is we need to plant thousands of wetland plants that Mike Heep is going to provide for this through the grant,” Lyssy said.

Heep is a local native plants expert, and helped select and plant the native flora that makes up a key component of the bio-retention basin.

Some of those plants in the basin, the Texas wild olives, appear to have succumbed to the midsummer heat. Heep has said it was a risk to plant the olives so late in the year, and that he would re-plant new olive trees this fall.

Parks officials do not anticipate similar problems with the wetlands planting.

“In October, we will have a mass planting with 125 or 150 students out there helping us to do that,” Lyssy said.

“The good thing is, in September hopefully we’ll get more rain, some storms, and the ponds will fill up and we’ll be ready to plant then … (and) by the end of October the planting will be concluded.”

To satisfy grant requirements for an educational component to the project, the Parks and Recreation Department, in coordination with Texas State Technical College, will identify student leaders as team leaders and instruct them on planting the aquatic plants.

The overhaul of the 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.

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