New amenities, trail coming soon to Mercedes

MERCEDES — The 1200 block of North Vermont Avenue is looking more fun by the day.

Coming soon to the vicinity of Mercedes’ new 20,000-square-foot Safe Room and Community Recreation Center is a walking trail where at least three exercise stations will be located.

As part of the first phase of constructing a community park in town, Mercedes city officials broke ground on the 1-and-a-half mile-long trail Oct. 12, and are now days away from opening the amenity.

“We’re probably within a couple of weeks of completing it, so that’s moving very well,” City Manager Richard Garcia said Friday, adding that the installation of exercise equipment will soon follow should change-orders be approved as early as this week.

Previously, Mayor Henry Hinojosa said it was his aim upon winning the office in 2011 to open a park on the south side of the city, where he said Mercedes has historically been lacking as much.

The walking trail and exercise stations are considered the first in a series of undertakings that will eventually make up the park, which officials say will include basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields and baseball diamonds surrounding the safe room — a $4.2 million domed structure that doubles as a shelter and rec center.

FEMA monies helped pay for 75 percent of the dome, according to Garcia, and a $500,000 grant awarded by the Knapp Community Care Foundation is funding the trail’s construction.

A $1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration is also paying for infrastructural improvements in the area, and the Hidalgo Urban County Program awarded Mercedes $180,000 for an 8-inch sewer line.

According to Grants Coordinator Olga Rosas, a grant application for $500,000 is also pending with Texas Parks & Wildlife.

“That would help fund the second phase, which is for the sports complex part of it,” she said. “The park itself would also have restrooms and a pavilion, along with the trail that will lead around the front of the dome and connect on the opposite side to circle the entire facility.”

Garcia also hopes the TPWD grant, if awarded, will fund lighting at the walking trail, including other improvements. What’s more, Rosas noted that one of the fitness stations will be complaint with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Other amenities planned at the future park site will be a half-acre pond, seating for nature talks, an urban campsite and several playgrounds, as well as a splash pad, picnic stations and as many as 361 parking spaces. There’s also the potential for constructing detention ponds and housing a reforested area as large as 2 acres.