SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — If you build it, they will come.
But you better have a place for them to park.
The Cameron County Parks Department is about to embark on a major parking lot upgrade for Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island.
One could even say the increasingly popular beachfront park is a victim of the county’s own largesse.
“As you know, we’ve just done $30 million in improvements to Isla Blanca Park,” Joe Vega, county parks director, said Monday. “We have two large pavilions there, with a beachfront boardwalk as well, and now we’re adding some more parking so we should have ample parking for our guests to enjoy.”
The $450,000 project will add 220 new parking spaces at Isla Blanca, Vega said.
“It’s the extension of Parking Lot 10, and Parking Lot 10 is located just west of the Sandpipers Pavilion,” Vega said.
Vega said the county parks department has entered into an agreement with the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, which did the design and will oversee construction management.
“Quite frankly, we should have added the parking areas at the beginning and we didn’t, but it’s a good problem to have,” said Pete Sepulveda Jr., executive director of CCRMA. “This summer was a really good summer for us. We had a lot of visitors.”
Construction is expected to begin in October with a finishing date sometime next April.
As might be expected, a major construction project in the fragile coastal dunes which make up the shoreline at Isla Blanca Park can be problematic. Vega says the county is seeking help from Texas A&M University-Kingsville to perform dune mitigation studies.
“We’re entering into a partnership with Texas A&M-Kingsville and they’re going to work the dune mitigation for this project,” Vega said. “There are a lot of students from Texas A&M who are going through the master’s program, and some in the doctorate program as well, who are going to be in on and working on the dune mitigation project.”
On Monday, there was plenty of parking around the pavilions at Isla Blanca, but that is not necessarily the case on weekends, Vega admitted.
“When we have nice weather on the weekend, it attracts more people to our beaches,” Vega said. “And not only that, but whenever SpaceX has a launch it attracts a lot of people to Isla Blanca Park as well.”
“That is the best place to view the launch,” he added. “I tell people Isla Blanca Park is like a front-row seat to a SpaceX launch.”
Sepulveda also mentioned SpaceX launches, and he conceded the Isla Blanca parking lots “get full pretty quick” weekends.
“And then the other potential use for it in the future is, once we get — and I don’t know if we’ll ever get over COVID, but when things get better and we go back to a somewhat normal life — and we start having events at the amphitheater or the events center, then those can serve as overflow lots so we can shuttle people from the parking lot over to the event center or amphitheater,” he added.
And despite the $30 million investment into the park, Sepulveda said “we’re not done yet.”
“We want to improve our RV lots,” Sepulveda said. “I don’t know if you traveled on any of the streets but the streets are not in the best condition, so we want to upgrade those.”
Sepulveda said the county also intends to ensure that anybody visiting Isla Blanca, or any of the coastal parks, will have access to broadband connectivity.
“We’ve done a lot, but there’s a lot more to do,” Sepulveda added. “We want to have a first-class destination out there, and I think we’re pretty close to that.”