Harlingen, SPI, McAllen win beautification awards

HARLINGEN — Two years after winning a quarter of a million dollars for landscaping, Keep Texas Beautiful has recognized the City of Harlingen with a Governor’s Community Achievement Award of Excellence for 2017.

Elsewhere, South Padre Island won a sustained excellence award for 2015-17, and McAllen won a first place landscaping award and with it a hefty $290,000 grant.

Harlingen’s award comes just two years after the city won $250,000 for a first-place landscaping award among cities in its population category.

The Governor’s Community Achievement Awards aim to reward Texas cities of all sizes for efforts to improve their appearance. The GCAA program has recognized community commitment to beautifying for more than 30 years, with TxDOT providing landscaping funding since 1985.

“At Keep Harlingen Beautiful, our goal is to do multiple beautification projects across the city, to partner with other organizations like TSTC and the Marine Military Academy to do area-wide cleanups and city-wide cleanups,” Wayne Lowery, chair of the Keep Harlingen Beautiful board, said Thursday.

“A big part of our work is encouraging people to recycle and be good stewards of our resources,” Lowery added.

On the Island, former Keep South Padre Island Beautiful committee chair Susan Dalton said the Island was rewarded for its aggressive campaign to keep up appearances both on the beach and off.

“I encouraged the committee to take on new projects that make a difference to the Island community as well as our natural habitat,” Dalton said. “Those projects included additional beach cleanups, a bay cleanup, monofilament recycling stations, the skip the straw program, plant of the month and yard of the month.”

Dalton was quick to praise the input of other members of the Island committee, saying Mary Tannenbaum was directly responsible for writing the actual award application.

“Each member, however, contributed a portion of the award essay,” she said.

In McAllen, funding from its award will go toward landscaping improvements along a local right-of-way.

“I am proud that the efforts of Keep McAllen Beautiful and our community have not only continued to make our city beautiful, but also have been recognized by the State of Texas with such a prestigious award,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said Thursday.

In Harlingen, the city is finally preparing to use the $250,000 beautification award from 2015 to spruce up the western entrance to the city between Tyler and Harrison avenues.

“We’re going to see a lot of new landscaping improvements at one of the most heavily-used intersections in our community, so we’re really excited about that,” Lowery said.

As part of the project, which could begin within weeks, the city will plant flowering trees such as royal poinciana, wild olive and orchid trees across a 320-foot by 240-foot area under the overpass.

“We’re also installing some new lighting similar to what you see in McAllen, the beautiful colors under the overpass,” Lowery added.

City leaders selected the Harrison and Tyler underpass because it has become the city’s gateway near Valle Vista Mall and the Harlingen Heights shopping district anchored by Bass Pro Shops. The new convention center will only add to its importance.

Valley Governor’s Award winners

McAllen — First place, Landscape Award, $290,000

S. Padre Island — Sustained Excellence Award 2015-2017

Harlingen — Excellence Award 2017