By PETE BANDA
Special to the PRESS
In an effort to promote active transportation and overall health in Cameron County, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation has teamed up with HALFF Associates, Toole Design Group, and Adventure Cycling to prepare a plan for active tourism promotion, which will include everything from more bike routes across the County, to extended paddling routes at South Padre Island.
Organizers from the three groups met at the Harlingen City Hall on Thursday for their fourth meeting about the new tourism routes and attraction plans.
“This plan was actually initiated by Cameron County and their communities, and it’s a multi-faceted plan,” said Christian Lentz, the senior planner from HALFF Associates. “The intent is to promote community health and the way we are going to do that is by creating a region-wide active transportation method that citizens can use. To get people on board with the idea of investing in something like this, we also have to show how the community can benefit economically from this sort of idea.”
To implement these plans, the groups have proposed building more trails for biking, paddling, and other outdoor activities that can attract “active tourists.” According to Darren Flusche, senior planner of Toole Design Group, the active tourist puts about twice the money into the economy as the normal tourist.
“Active tourists are going to be tired and sweaty and looking for places to stop along their journey for food or rest,” said Flusche. “An average tourist who is just driving through the area, usually only stops once or twice to eat and then is back on the road.”
According to Flusche, Cameron County already ranks as the number 11 most visited county in Texas, with over one-third of visitors coming from out of state. “The really cool thing about Cameron County is that people from other parts of the United States might not fully understand the amount of energy and excitement that this place is capable of until they come here… We already have people from Colorado, and Canada and Mexico coming to Cameron County because of all the outdoor activities possible here,” said Flusche. “I see this County as almost a hidden gem, because all marketing that this community has is exactly what these active tourists are looking for – great heritage, outdoor activities and of course a beautiful beach.”
The groups hope that by February, the planning phase for all the new activity routes and tourism spots will be done and they can begin implementation.
“Right now we’re still in the planning stages and we’ve gone over them and revised them several times so we’re still working all the details out to make sure everything is as efficient as possible,” added Lentz. “We are confident that by the time February comes around, we can move on to the next stage of implementing all these plans.”
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