By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
January 29, 2015
The South Padre Island Parks, Recreation, and Beautification Committee met last Wednesday morning for their first meeting of the year. Port Isabel Mayor and newly appointed Cameron County Parks Director Joe Vega joined the meeting to update the committee on the projects going on at the Cameron County parks. The committee had a busy holiday season with many events, so they used this meeting to focus on upcoming projects and ideas for the Island.
The meeting started with the election of the chair and vice chair for 2015. Jody Hughes was elected to continue in her position as Chair of the committee. Previous Vice Chair Wanda Ballou declined to continue in her position, and committee member Debbie Huffman was elected as the new vice chair.
Last week, Mayor Vega, who served as interim Parks Director for the county, was officially named Parks Director by the Cameron County Commissioners’ Court. He attended Wednesday’s meeting to update the committee on the County Parks Master Plan and the projects that are in the works. The county recently held a public hearing to discuss the plan and to listen to ideas from the community. Hughes attended the meeting and said there were hundreds of ideas that were brought to the table.
With the coming of SpaceX, Vega shared that one of their main goals was to improve public access and infrastructure at the parks, especially those on the Island that could serve as viewing areas for future launches. Some ideas included building a viewing deck or platform, but possibly more importantly, improving current structures such as the restrooms at Isla Blanca Park. The county also received a grant in the amount of $464,000 to build a walkover at Beach Access 4, which will make the access accessible according to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as help prevent damage to dune vegetation. Plans also include improvements to parking and facilities at the access as funding becomes available. In the coming months, the county will hold additional public hearings to complete the Parks Master Plan.
Mayor Vega also gave updates on other projects including a new fishing pier on State Highway 48 that was funded with the help of a grant from the General Land Office (GLO) as well as a new boat ramp on the Arroyo Colorado at Adolph Thomae, Jr. Park funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. He also added that the City of Port Isabel received a $1 million grant from the GLO to build a living shoreline on the bay. An area near Derry Elementary which had previously been used as a dredge disposal site was converted to a coastal park to encourage public use and promote wildlife in the region.
During the meeting, the committee also discussed ideas for the SPI Community Center construction project as well as the SPI City Park Project and opted to create a subcommittee for each. City staff has worked on plans for the center, however, funds are not currently allocated for improvements. The city park will be funded by the city along with grants from the state. The subcommittees will meet to come up with ideas for the future of both projects as well as to discuss fundraising options.
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