SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Summer visitors to Isla Blanca Park will have a different experience this year as the popular beach and fishing spot is undergoing a major transformation.
But officials say, despite the construction, the park will remain open for all to enjoy.
“The park’s open for business. We have ample parking for beach access,” Cameron County Parks Director Joe Vega said.
“The construction does not affect the fishing, at all, and there’s plenty of parking. We just ask our visitors that go there to just respect the construction in the area and not to go in the fencing area.”
In February, construction began as officials broke ground in Dolphin Cove for an amphitheater and a multipurpose building, both of which are scheduled for completion this summer.
“The multipurpose building and the amphitheater, hopefully by early to mid-August, will be completed,” Vega said.
In March, construction crews began demolishing the Sandpiper Pavilion on the Gulf side of the park.
“They already started construction on the Sandpiper Pavilion,” Vega said. “They are already starting to drive the pilings for the boardwalk that’s going to connect between the Sandpiper and DJ Lerma Pavilion.”
Cameron County Commissioners have continued to fine-tune the pavilion, amphitheater and multipurpose building by voting on the colors those structures will be painted.
In a less-than-contentious discussion, commissioners reached a compromise in their choice between white and sand-colored. Commissioners chose a light sand-colored hue for the Sandpiper and DJ Lerma pavilions, and the multipurpose building will be painted a refreshing white.
Weather permitting, construction on the Sandpiper Pavilion will be completed in November.
“After the summer’s over, as soon as things start dying down, they are going to start demo-ing the DJ Lerma Pavilion and start construction on the DJ Lerma Pavilion,” Vega said. “And now they are already starting to work on the additional parking that we’re going to have out there. We are looking to add 280 parking spaces for the public to enjoy.”
One aspect of the transformation that already is completed is the popular boat ramp, which now has additional parking, near the amphitheater.
Once crews have finished the pavilions, the multipurpose building and the amphitheater, there is still more work to be done in the park.
“Hopefully, after all the recent construction is finished, then we can start looking into doing renovations to RV sites,” Vega said. “We have to do everything in phases.”
Late last year, the commissioners approved rate increases to the RV park and changed the way tenants book spots. In turn, the parks department has pledged to improve the RV park’s amenities and infrastructure, but Vega said officials have to take it one step at a time.
“We’re still working on the scheduling because there’s just too much construction, too many moving parts,” he said. “As soon as we are completed with the Gulf-side improvements and the amphitheater, then we will start planning.”
Officials have placed the price tag for the renovations at $17 million.
And once it’s all complete, Isla Blanca Park, which has been a staple for thousands of families in Cameron County and for those south of the Rio Grande, will be a gift that keeps on giving for future generations, Vega said.
“I will tell you what, once all the construction is finished, my God, it’s going to really transform Isla Blanca Park. It’s going to look beautiful,” he said. “We’re so excited because it’s not only for this generation to enjoy, but for many more generations to enjoy Isla Blanca Park.”