SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Jorge Pena has been living in paradise for years.
Along with many others, he has enjoyed the same RV camping spot at Isla Blanca Park every summer for decades.
The perennial campers meet every year to enjoy the summer sun, the beach and cookout parties with neighbors.
Many have even gone as far as beautifying their camp spots and making it more like home.
But this month, all the park visitors who attempted to place a deposit to secure their same spot next season were told they could not.
Cameron County Parks and Recreation has issued a moratorium on reservations for next season. The county has put into effect a first-come, first-served policy for next season.
And it caught many of the campers by surprise.
“At this point due to the improvements that we are going to be having at Isla Blanca, we could not keep their deposits for next year or promise them their spaces because we don’t know what the construction deadline is going to be,” said Sophia Benavides, Cameron County commissioner for Precinct 1.
County officials are expecting to begin major renovations and improvements to Isla Blanca and Andy Bowie Park.
The renovations are part of the Cameron County’s master plan to upgrade the park with electrical upgrades, a new campground design, site additions, park rehabilitation and reconfiguration of the parks.
Benavides said nobody is asking visitors to leave until they finish their term, but she made it clear over the phone visitors would not be able to reserve the same spot next season.
“When we get our construction plan finalized we will let our RV guests and the public know the park is open to make reservations,” county Parks and Recreation Director Joe Vega said.
“We value the park visitors who have been there for many years,” Vega said. “At this time, we cannot guarantee campers their same site as in previous years because we might be in construction in those areas of the park.”
But campers are worried they will never get their spot back.
“All we are asking is to consider taking the deposit and allow us to keep the site that we have had for many years,” said Pena, a Weslaco resident who has rented the same spot for more than 20 years.
Pena and others pleaded to county commissioners during an open forum recently to continue to accept their deposits just like they have for years.
Pena and many others are fighting to keep their same spot they have made home away from home on the Island.
In some cases, the renter has modified their camp spot with sprinkler systems, grass and any way they pleased.
Pricing to rent at the park varies from $485 to $650 a month, depending on the proximity to the water.
Isla Blanca Park currently has 600 camping spots for RVs.
According to the project master plan, 70 new camp spots are projected to be added to allow more people to stay at the park.
“Those new spots could be given to the individuals who do not currently have access to the park,” Pena said during public comment.