County ‘supports’ Active Plan

BROWNSVILLE — Rather than “adopting” a plan in favor of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Transportation and Tourism Plan, Cameron County “supports” it.

The distinction is important.

At the last county commissioner’s court meeting, a motion died and the item was tabled because the Commissioners Court needed clarity.

“Is the verb ‘support’ or ‘adopt?’ I think they’re two separate things. I think the verb ‘adopt’ needs a little more research,” County Commissioner Pct. 2 Alex Dominguez said at the last meeting.

Frank Martinez, the county’s legal counsel, suggested the word “adopt” opened up the county to having to commit money or land down the road.

“Legally, adoption means accepting the plan itself can commit you to providing monies or going for grants, or possibly, to connect with all these cities, it would require the county to purchase land or condemn land,” Martinez said.

“We may also need to deal with the irrigation and drainage districts.”

A clearly frustrated County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. had challenged the statement.

“How much, Mr. Martinez? What’s the price tag? … Where is it saying we have to spend money?” he countered.

That was one issue Martinez was trying to clarify.

The 179-page plan said “significant commitment,” and proposed routes outside city limits. Those routes either have to be purchased or given away by the county, Martinez said.

After a long discussion, Treviño made a motion to adopt the plan, with room to discuss all financial issues that arise.

After nobody in the court spoke up, the motion died.

In contrast, when Treviño asked the court to consider the motion Tuesday, it was quickly approved with no discussion.

The county was the only entity which still had not formally expressed its support for the plan until Tuesday morning, said Ramiro Gonzalez, City of Brownsville government affairs liaison.

The city is appreciative of the county for its support because the wheel is already in motion, Gonzalez said.

“A lot of cities (10) have really embraced this vision, and there are different projects and activities being implemented, organized and discussed,” Gonzalez said.

A few questions still need to be tackled, like how all 10 cities will continue to cooperate down the road.

“It’s 10 different cities cooperating on a plan, and now you have (them) doing a variety of things on their own. How do you ensure cooperation continues from today to when the plan is implemented?” Gonzalez said. “What does that look like? Is it a task force, a committee? An organization?”

Cooperation is not always financial support, Gonzalez said. Sometimes it can be drafting letters of support for another city’s grant application.

Other times, it can be passing a resolution in favor of an action, like the county did Tuesday.

The project has piqued the interest of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

The organization designated it a project of national significance. It is the sixth plan in the county to receive this level of interest from Rails-to-Trails, Gonzalez said.

“We really thank the county for supporting this plan, and we look forward to serving with them in the future,” Gonzalez said.

What is the Active Plan?

Two weeks ago, Brownsville, Los Fresnos and the National Park Service entered into a memorandum of understanding to look at the Brownsville-Los Fresnos connection.

The Brownsville-Los Fresnos connection is one of six catalyst projects that are at the heart of the active transportation and tourism plan.

“The thought is that if you implement those projects, everything else will eventually start to connect little by little,” Brownsville’s government affairs liaison Ramiro Gonzalez said.

“But it’s not something that will happen overnight. This is a 10- or 20-year plan of building out this network.”