SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — While construction at Isla Blanca Park will temporarily leave visitors without some amenities, it’s also paving the way for new partnerships with universities.
The Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department will close the boat ramp and the adjacent restrooms and parking lot starting March 1, Director Joe Vega said, with plans to reopen the area before the end of May.
It’s a matter of safety, Vega said.
The county will break ground on an amphitheater and multipurpose building Feb. 7, the first phase of improvements to Isla Blanca Park.
“There’s going to be a lot of construction traffic going through that area,” he said.
He expects a notice that includes the location of alternative public boat ramps to go out next week.
Also, the park will temporarily suspend the rental of 10 RV sites, S01-S10, to make way for a new road that is part of future RV site improvements.
About 20,416 cubic yards of sand dunes on the gulf side of Isla Blanca Park will be mitigated during the second phase of improvements, Vega said, and more than 193,000 square feet of vegetation will be replanted. The county is reviewing bids for construction that includes moving two pavilions 200 feet inland, building dune walkovers and adding 428 more parking spots.
County commissioners have approved a partnership with Texas A&M University-Kingsville to map and rebuild the dunes, and they will hear a proposed agreement next week that will bring the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley into the fold.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for students to get real-world experience,” Vega said, “and, at the same time, provide some services to the county and work on projects to protect our environment.”
County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. said the county’s dune restoration is vital to protect the shoreline, which is receding about 10 feet per year.
“When you see aerial (photos) of what the coastline looked like 20, 30, 40 years ago versus today, it’s a bit disheartening,” he said, “so we’ve got some catching up to do.”
Kim Jones is a professor in the TAMUK Environmental Engineering Department and director of the Institute of Sustainable Energy and the Environment. He lauded county leaders for organizing the project, which will enlist four environmental engineering students and a Ph.D. candidate.
“They’re trying to be proactive, and we’re going to try and do the best possible restoration of the dunes,” Jones said.
He said TAMUK students will map the dunes and relocate some vegetation to the Native Plant Center. They’re researching methods to make the new dunes more resistant to erosion, which may include using coconut or hemp fiber, and vegetation with larger roots.
“We’re all planning for sea level rise and climate change,” Jones said.
County commissioners will vote on a proposed project oversight agreement with UTRGV during their Feb. 6 meeting.
Augusto Sanchez, director of estuary and environmental projects at UTRGV’s engineering college, said four civil engineering seniors and two graduate students are slated to work on the dune mitigation project. Their proposal includes getting the public involved with harvesting and planting vegetation.
Gulf side sand dunes mitigation