HARLINGEN — They’re psyched.
Families and children are excitedly anticipating the conversion of Lon C. Hill Park into a “destination park” with a volleyball area, running trails and numerous other attractions.
“To be honest, me and my kids are very, very excited because they love to be outside,” said Alma Garza, whose sons Ethan, 9, and Tristan, 11, enjoy the park.
“They like to do the pool a lot; they like to go to the water splash,” Garza said. “They like to do the bikes. And when they run, they like to be in the park.”
Lon C. Hill Park and the surrounding areas are also the site for all manner of recreational activities. Filled with shade trees and swing sets, it offers an inviting place for families to come and relax. Right across L Street sits the Lon C. Hill Pool and the Harlingen Splash Pad. Nearby is the Main Unit of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Harlingen with areas for skateboarding and basketball courts.
Plans to create a “super park” at the location have been in the works for about two years. When completed, the park will have an amphitheater, athletic courts and an adaptive field for special needs children. It will also have a discovery center and a dog park.
“What we want to create is an area the family can go to have a family atmosphere with different components,” City Manager Dan Serna has said.
Aquatics Supervisor Adam Diaz said his department would foot the bill for some sand volleyball courts and a couple of horseshoe pits.
“We’re going to try to have little things like that on my end,” Diaz said. “That’s kind of what I’m working on.”
Local sports promoters are pretty jazzed about the idea, too.
“They have plans to close off that L Street that runs by the Boys and Girls Club and the pool — an amphitheater, a trail for running, this is all awesome, amazing,” said Ana Adame, director of operations at Bicycle World.
“We are very excited about the future of Lon C. Hill Park and the positive effects it will have on families living in Harlingen,” she said. “By providing access to park activities, the city will directly influence the healthy lifestyles for families with young children and those who are young at heart.”
Work on the park could begin as soon as August, said Javier Mendez, parks and recreation director for the city.
He said the city has received two bid proposals for the first phase. He said he plans to meet with the architect and staff this week.
“We’re trying to see if we can get the project within budget,” Mendez said. “We’re looking at the numbers, so we’re trying to move forward with it.”
The first phase, he said, will be a pavilion for large gatherings such as birthday parties.
“We’ll probably start working on the parking lots and then of course the sidewalks and the landscaping,” he said. “The running trail, we’re looking at the numbers to see if we want to include it in Phase 1. That may come in the second phase.”
He said the sand volleyball courts will be funded and built by the city rather than contractors.
“It’s in one of the phases,” he said. “We already have the equipment and the material to build that sand volleyball court.”
Serna has said the park would draw visitors from across the region.
“Those folks are going to get hungry and thirsty, eat in our restaurants and shop in our shops,” he said.
Such might be the case with Amanda Aguirre, who brought her three young kids one sunny afternoon to enjoy the Splash Pad. The kids laughed gleefully as they ran through streams of water rising from the ground, running over fixtures of a large red ladybug and a green turtle.
Their mother was delighted that the park will be upgraded with new facilities.
“Actually I think it’s great because here in the Valley we don’t really have much, and especially that I come from San Benito I think it’s awesome,” she said.
She beckoned toward her children enjoying some moments of timeless pleasure in the cool water beneath a hot July sun.
“They love the splash pool,” she said. “They’ve been wanting to come for awhile; I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring them.”