Living in Harlingen these days means having access to as much parkland and hike-and-bike trails as can be found in the Rio Grande Valley.
It’s a point that Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell likes to make, as he did recently when the city marked the official opening of the Lon C. Hill Destination Park. The $3.3-million project transformed what was an ordinary green space. It is now over 50 acres of tree-lined pathways, gazebos, a lighted water fountain, an all-inclusive playground, and picnic areas for groups large and small.
A Welcoming Gem
The park’s location is between the Municipal Auditorium and the Boys & Girls Club and is adorned with dozens of longstanding oak trees that have seen a gem of revitalized green space emerge under their reach. The revitalized park impresses from the start. A grand arched gateway with stone columns welcomes visitors from Fair Park Boulevard. A large pavilion comes into a view with a sparkling water fountain.
Walkways wind throughout the park. There are all sorts of covered seating areas whether it be pavilion-type settings or individual park benches under pergolas.
“This is a real gem for us,” Boswell said during a late March gathering to open the Destination Park. “It’s a centerpiece for this city, a place for our children to come to play … maybe get a little wet in a fountain.”
Funding for the project came from taking a slice of local sales tax money, as approved by voters for quality-of-life improvement projects, and a $1 million grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. It’s the first step of a multi-pronged project that will in coming years add an outdoor amphitheater and connection to a hike-and-bike trail that will enter the park from an adjoining baseball field.
“A park like this is wonderful for our community,” said Jesse Robles, the chairman of a local improvement board charged with making recommendations to the City Commission on how to best use sales tax funds for local improvements. “It’s a fulfillment of a request by the citizenry to develop our parks.”
Cutting A New Path Along Arroyo
While the city celebrates the opening of its new destination park, a new path is being cut across town in the form of a 1.6-mile extension of Harlingen’s popular Arroyo Colorado trail. Construction of the $1.5 million extension is ongoing and visible from Expressway 77/83 and Dixieland Road. Here, the state-funded branch of the trail will conclude from its current endpoint near Boggus Ford.
Completion of the extension is scheduled for this fall. Once complete, it will allow walkers and bikers to go from McKelvey Park on city core/Business 77 all the way to Dixieland Road on the western side of the city near Dixieland Park. Exercise enthusiasts will be able to view native habitat and trees looming above as they walk/run and bike on the trail down below the arroyo cliffs.
“Great cities have great parks,” Mayor Boswell said.
Boswell and other city officials believe recent times have highlighted the importance of outdoor green activities that are both safe and enjoyable. The new destination park and extension of the Arroyo trail demonstrate the city is making investments to make that goal increasingly possible.