Local attorney challenges county park accessibility after surfers ticketed

By Gaige Davila

Local surfers and their attorney are questioning their recent citations for surfing at Isla Blanca Park after noting several RVs were still renting inside the Cameron County beach park. 

Stuart Diamond, an attorney on South Padre Island, is representing 13 people who were ticketed by Cameron County Parks Rangers on July 24 after surfing at Isla Blanca Park during the swell that developed a few days before Hurricane Hanna’s landfall.

Diamond said Cameron County Park Rangers waited at the 13 surfers’ vehicles parked at Chapel by the Sea, just next to the Isla Blanca Park access, Diamond said. 

Diamond has entered not guilty pleas for the 13 surfers and has requested a jury trial. 

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr. ordered all county parks and beach accesses to be closed temporarily from June 30 to July 13, then extended their closure through subsequent emergency management orders. RV campers, however, were able to rent at Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park, which are now closed indefinitely.

Diamond says this is a privatization of a public park. 

“If the park is closed (to the public), why are the RVs allowed?” Diamond said. “If the park’s closed, the RVs have to go. The RVs are violating the emergency order, there is no exception.” 

Tommy Saenz, a South Padre Island resident, was one of the surfers ticketed.

“The issue that I have about this whole thing is that there was no sign posted,” Saenz said. “As soon as we got our tickets, within thirty minutes, they put a roadblock sign saying you cannot walk on the property.” 

He continued,”We’ve been doing this forever, they never said we couldn’t walk through (Isla Blanca Park).”

Saenz said the officers had a new court order to issue a prohibition for walking through Isla Blanca Park but it wasn’t supposed to take effect until 2 p.m. that day. Saenz was ticketed at 10:45 a.m. 

The ticket Cameron County Parks Rangers issued to Saenz says “violation of emergency violation (walking through park).”  

In all three of Cameron County’s emergency management orders responding to COVID-19, a subsection lists all Cameron County beach accesses, beach parks and other county parks as closed but does include language relating to RVs or walking through the park to access the beach. In Cameron County Parks and Recreation press releases, however, a clause outlining restrictions for campers inside the RV parks at Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park is present. In a document outlining restrictions for campers at Isla Blanca Park and Andie Bowie Park, campers are allowed to walk on the beach and visit the Jetties but not any of the pavilions inside the parks. 

Cameron County Parks & Recreation suspended renting spaces inside county parks on Aug. 4, because of concerns relating to COVID-19, indefinitely. Up until Aug. 4 people could rent spaces at Isla Blanca Park and Andy Bowie Park. 

In the summer, June 1 to August 31, rental fees for Isla Blanca Park are $600 to $800 a month depending on the space an RV uses. From now until November 30, the rental season is considered “off-peak.” 

Melissa Elizardi, Public Relations Officer with the Cameron County Judge’s Office, told the PRESS a press conference scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4, would address questions the PRESS asked to Cameron County Parks Director Joe Vega.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.portisabelsouthpadre.com/2020/09/04/local-attorney-challenges-county-park-accessibility-after-surfers-ticketed/

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