Getting ready: New park plans just the start

SAN BENITO — The new park isn’t built yet, but that’s not stopping city officials from wanting to expand on it already.

Tuesday night, commissioners gave Parks and Recreation Director Art Garza permission to proceed with the application process for a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant that would give the city $500,000 to expand the park.

“It’s an outdoor recreation grant,” Garza said.

This new grant would allow Garza to add playground structures, shade structures and lighting.

Work crews have already begun to dig up the ground for the 12-acre park. It is currently unnamed, but some people call it South Park, said Garza.

Before the approval of the grant application, commissioners conducted a public hearing giving residents some time to express their opinions on the grant.

Lynne Pare from Keep San Benito Beautiful was the only resident who spoke up.

She urged commissioners and Garza to solicit all the different entities and nonprofits in the city to give volunteer services.

“Master Gardener, master naturalists, Keep San Benito Beautiful, Don’t Mess with Texas and all the others,” Pare said. “There are thousands of volunteer hours waiting to be used.”

The grant application deadline is Oct. 1.

Approval to move forward with the grant was unanimous.

Commissioner Joe D. Gonzalez urges his fellow commissioners to give Garza access to all the available resources.

“We need everyone’s cooperation to get this grant,” he said.

For now, crews are busy working phase one, infrastructure.

The park is being made possible through a $494,755 grant from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation.

In addition, the city will use $134,207 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds, $104,864 in city General Fund budget money and $14,270 in-kind services.

Those include services from the Boys & Girls Club, Cameron County Master Gardeners, Keep San Benito Beautiful and the Parks and Recreation Board.

The park project will total $748,096.

“This is something we have been looking forward to for a long time,” Garza said. “It will be the first park south of the expressway.”

San Benito was awarded the grant because its proposal was to build a park that would encourage a healthy lifestyle and serve the community in a positive way.

“The grant to the city of San Benito is like others we have given that encourage an active lifestyle in our local communities,” said Grants Coordinator Judy Quisenberry.

“Physical activity is key to reducing risk of chronic disease and the symptoms that accompany them. So we see creating and enhancing parks and trails in our area as a way to create these opportunities.”

What will make up new ‘South Park’

*Soccer fields

* Half-mile multi-use trail

* Ball fields

* Restrooms

* Bleachers,

* Picnic tables

* Barbecue pits

* Trash receptacles

The community will be able to use the trail for walking, jogging and biking.

The second phase, which will include the ball fields, will follow with an estimated completion date of early 2018.