HARLINGEN — One of the county’s busiest parks will receive another major upgrade, the second in two years.
Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park is one of the most popular parks in the county system, mostly due to its easy access to the Arroyo Colorado and the Laguna Madre via the park’s boat ramps.
County officials announced this past week $500,000 will be allocated to the changes — $375,000 coming from a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department grant; the county pays the rest. The upgrades include adding restrooms to a new boat launch area, installing LED lighting and repaving old parking lots as well as the pothole-filled access road.
“These new improvements will increase accessibility and safety for the anglers and visitors at Adolph Thomae Jr. County Park,” County Judge Eddie Trevino said.
In fall 2017, the park opened a new two-ramp boat launch, a pair of fish-cleaning stations, a new parking lot with dozens of parking areas for vehicles with trailers and two ADA-accessible fishing piers. The county spent almost a million dollars on the upgrades, more than half of which came in the form of another TPWD grant.
“We’re investing a lot of money because it’s a great park,” said Joe E. Vega, county parks director. “It’s been in the park system for many years and many people from Cameron County, from the Rio Grande Valley and from all over the state come in and enjoy this park, even in the winter.”
The park sits on the south bank of the Arroyo Colorado where it enters the Laguna Madre, one of the prime fishing spots in the entire Gulf of Mexico region.
Despite the expensive upgrades to the park in 2017, Vega says Thomae isn’t going to be neglected.
“We’re resurfacing the access road, which needs a lot of help,” he said. “We’re also going to resurface the parking lot on the boat ramp on the east side, that’s the old parking lot. And we’re also building new restrooms where the new boat ramp location is at.”
The Thomae Park boat launch is the busiest in the lower Laguna Madre, with the park serving more than 300,000 visitors annually.
Once known for snarled traffic backups at its boat launch, much of the congestion has been alleviated by the new boat launch with twin ramps which began operating in 2017.
“Recently, with the assistance of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we were able to develop a new boat ramp facility at Adolph Thomae county park that included a new environmental-friendly low-impact parking lot,” said County Commission David A. Garza, who represents Precinct 3.
“As we strive to continue to respect the surrounding sensitive environment, I’m proud to say that the new improvements will include the installation of environmental-friendly lighting on both boat ramp parking areas that will minimize any negative effects to the wildlife and safety of nature,” Garza added.
Not all of the county’s recent investment in the park has been so visible.
For years, county parks officials and engineers have struggled with an ongoing erosion problem within park boundaries along the Laguna Made.
“The county has invested quite a bit of money in that park, and also to protect the shoreline along the park,” Vega said. “Throughout the years we’ve received grant funds through the Coastal Impact Assistance Program and through the Texas General Land Office to restore the shoreline because the shoreline there is eroding at one to two feet a year.”
The park shoreline extends 8,000 linear feet along the Laguna Madre, a dynamic ecosystem prone to weather and tidal extremes. Vega said the county parks system has to date restored about 2,500 linear feet of shoreline, and is seeking further grant monies to help protect the rest.
Thomae Park upgrade
COST — $500,000, with $375,000 grant from TPWD
AMENITIES —New restrooms at boat ramp, new LED lighting, repave old parking lots, repave access road
START — Project is in design phase
COMPLETION — January 2020
Source: Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department