HARLINGEN — The city’s fighting back.
After years of thefts, crews have installed security cameras and lighting while repairing a gate at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.
The steps come nearly four months after residents complained about the theft of plants and equipment at the 53-acre park, which has become one of the city’s biggest draws at the annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.
“No doubt it’s a positive sign that the city is investing a bit more attention and time and money into the park,” Christina Mild, a Texas Master Naturalist who has helped build up the park, stated.
Earlier this week, crews completed the installation of two security cameras placed atop polls mounted on the parking lot’s west side, Javier Mendez, the city’s parks director, said yesterday.
“We put (the cameras) across the trail entrance so we could see people walking onto the parking lot on both sides of the parking lot,” Mendez said.
He said lighting was also installed atop the poles.
“They’ll be able to light up the parking lot area,” he said of the $2,000 project to better secure the park.
Mendez said crews also repaired a gate leading into nature trails.
Crews cut the 20-foot-long rolling gate to turn it into a 10-foot-long swinging gate, he said.
“It was real heavy for the volunteers to roll,” Mendez said. “Now it’s easier for them to open and close it.”
Since the mid 1990s, a group of residents have worked to turn the city’s old landfill into a thriving nature park that has become part of the World Birding Center.
But for years, thieves have dug plants from the ground and stolen the volunteers’ equipment.
Still, the group kept planting, Alicia Cavazos, the Audubon Society’s vice president, said.
“It’s great if that will stop it. It’s wonderful that they’re trying to fix all the big issues at Ramsey Park,” Cavazos said of the security cameras. “It’s a lot of money and effort that volunteers put in to make it a nice park.”
Along the park’s winding nature trails, thieves steal garden hoses used to irrigate feed ponds and plants — and even bird feeders.
So the volunteers hide their hoses or bring them home after working at the park, Laura Robinson, the Audubon Society’s secretary, said.
“Hopefully, it will prevent theft and vandalism out there,” Robinson said of the security cameras. “I’m real happy with that.”
Now, the Audubon Society is waiting to see if the city’s steps to better secure the park will stop the thefts.
“We are certainly hoping for the best outcome,” Norma Friedrich, the society’s president, stated. “There has not been enough time to have an opinion as to how well the overall improvements added to Ramsey Nature Park will work to deter plant and other theft and vandalism.”