Where will parks funds go?

HARLINGEN — New facilities at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park and the HEB Tennis Center at Pendleton Park are priorities for the city, but cost is becoming a factor.

Plans for a welcome/educational building at Hugh Ramsey, a world birding center site, and the new pro shop and building at the tennis center are both coming in on the expensive side.

City officials are hoping to scale back the concepts to obtain grant money for projects that are do-able.

“Megamorphosis (the design and architecture firm) did a plan for us but it was very expensive,” Javier Mendez, Parks and Recreation Department director, said this week of the Hugh Ramsey project.

“What we want to do is look for something that works, something that’s not just going to look nice and have a big ticket.

“I think all that we would need is maybe a classroom setting-type and an area where we could have a makeshift office, not to collect money, but to give information out,” he added.

Mendez didn’t have an estimate on the Hugh Ramsey project’s cost, but his department’s other priority set by the advisory board, improving the tennis center, has a preliminary price tag of $600,000.

Mendez and parks and rec advisory board members are aware the tennis center needs an upgrade from the modular building that serves players now.

A design produced pro bono for a center would create a building of about 20,000 square feet, which Mendez believes might be a little over the top. He favors seeking grant funding for a less-expansive structure.

At Hugh Ramsey, the city has been active over the past two or three years in improving the uniquely wild urban park.

A $158,000 grant from the Texas General Land Office and its Coastal Management Program enabled the city to pave the parking lot, and construct a bio-retention basin that forms a filter to clear pollutants from parking lot runoff.

In addition, wetland ponds at the site were drained, a liner was installed and bull rock was laid down on the liner. Around 3,000 aquatic native plants were placed around the ponds.

A complicating factor in developing Hugh Ramsey Nature Park is its history. The site was used as a non-permitted dump site and there is soil contamination.

“That one I think is a little tougher than the HEB Tennis Center,” Mendez said. “The reason I say that is because back in the day when they were going to build this — I’m not sure whether they called it a welcome center or not — but the building they were going to build out there they backed off of it because when they did soil samples they found a lot of trash.

“What they were going to require from us is we have to have a monitoring system to monitor the gases, which was going to be very expensive,” he added.