SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The sound of the demolition of the pavilion and tollbooth at E.K. Atwood Park was masked by the sound of high tide’s crashing ebb and flow.

This beach-side destruction was not a sad moment. Rather, it marked the beginning of $3.7 million in park improvements by Cameron County.

The construction will bring improvements including an elevated plaza structure with five pavilions and picnic tables, two restrooms, community rinse stations, two new dune walkover structures, five designated parking areas for food truck concessions and other associated improvements.

County officials estimate the project will be complete by mid to late summer.

“I’m looking forward to the new improvements at E.K. Atwood Park. The improvements to this popular beach access area will result in positive changes that children and families will benefit from for years to come,” said Sofia C. Benavides, a Cameron County commissioner.

County officials held a groundbreaking ceremony recently at the E.K. Atwood Park announcing the improvements.

“The goal of the Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department is to improve the quality of life for our park visitors by making the necessary improvements to our community and coastal parks in order to make our parks a safer and better place for our visitors to enjoy,” said Joe E. Vega, Cameron County Parks director.

In 2015, because to safety concerns, the county decided to close the existing pavilion. This prompted the decision to restore the park and make the necessary improvements that will better serve beach visitors.

The park will have Americans with Disabilities Act parking, using a pervious paving system that is environmentally friendly.

The parking lot’s unique construction will reduce storm water runoff by allowing rain to infiltrate through the pavement and subsoil beneath, resulting in much cleaner runoff water making its way back into the waterways and groundwater.

E.K. Atwood Park is the first project of the $20 million investment in Coastal Park Improvements that Cameron County will undertake.

Funding for this project comes from bonds and paid by beach user fees. The beach user fee was increased to $10 in January 2016 to pay for improvements to the Gulf-side amenities at Isla Blanca Park, Andy Bowie Park, Cameron County Beach Access No. 3 and E.K. Atwood Park.

The park was originally constructed in 1996. It attracts thousands of visitors annually and is a popular place for beach visitors, especially during the summer months.

“Our County Coastal Parks on South Padre Island are a destination for many visitors. These parks offer an array of amenities and recreational opportunities,” said County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. “I’m excited to see improvements to E.K. Atwood Park and I’m also excited about all the improvements to come to the rest of the County’s Coastal Parks.”

What’s new?

Five pavilions

Picnic tables

Better parking

Full service restrooms

Rinse stations

Two dune walkovers

Food truck concessions