City to save old trees in destination park

That means revising plans for destination park

HARLINGEN — The stands of mature trees at Lon C. Hill Park have won a reprieve.

Yesterday, city commissioners and members of the Harlingen Community Improvement Board gave a green thumbs-up to revising Phase I of the destination park plan to eliminate the need to uproot and transplant the trees.

The $2.6 million Phase I of the overall $8.5 million destination park will reduce the number of pergolas planned from six to four and re-position the park’s central feature, a lighted fountain.

“We’ve had to make some changes to the layout of the destination park in Phase I and that’s because of the existing trees that are there and some of the other factors,” City Manager Dan Serna said.

David Monreal, architect with Gignac and Associates Inc., told the board and commissioners the redesign of the project was the result of a tree survey which had been performed at Lon C. Hill Park, which is where the destination park will be located.

“We took that plan and we fit our plan to the tree survey and we found that we were going to have to eliminate a lot of mature trees, which was not very responsible of us,” Monreal said. “So what we started to do was try to figure out where all the structures would go.

“Remarkably, we’re not knocking down any trees at all,” he added of the revised architectural plan. “If anything, we’re adding a few trees to sort of enhance some of the areas in front of the structures.”

Work on Phase I of the destination park at Lon C. Hill Park already has begun. But in order to move the project to the bidding phase, the revised architectural plans needed the sign-off from commissioners and the community improvement board, which gave their approval yesterday.

Mayor Chris Boswell commended the architectural firm for saving the trees, but asked if it was possible to change the stone walls and capstone on the pavilions at the destination park to match the stone at the Convention Center.

“I think the layout, I really appreciate considering the trees and going in here and not tearing down the trees, that’s a great idea,” he said.

“Would there be any value in trying to blend some of the architectural features that we have here with the convention center? For example, instead of using that stone, which I really like, what if we used the same kind of brick they’re using at the convention center?

“Maybe it doesn’t matter, like every house is different and it doesn’t have to look like the convention center, but I’m just asking that question.”

“We can certainly look at that,” Monreal replied.

Serna noted that, when completed, there will be a walkway from the $16.7 million Convention Center to the destination park, and an architectural tie-in at both sites makes sense.

One feature in the architectural drawings of the destination park, the amphitheater, also was discussed by commissioners and the board.

While it is included in the initial drawings, Serna said the amphitheater’s actual creation would be dependent on whether or not it could be included without hiking the cost of Phase I beyond $2.6 million.

“The amphitheater can always come later,” he said. “We’re still trying to work with the numbers … but I don’t think we’re going to be able to fit it in, but we’ll try.”