Thanks to a generous donation of land from a local family, Olmito is getting a new park.
Cameron County held a dedication ceremony Monday morning for Olmito Resaca Nature Park, to be developed on a 39.3-acre tract of native thorn scrub featuring 3,240 linear feet of resaca frontage west of I-69E and south of Hayes Road in Olmito. The property was donated by Frank M. and Jane E. McKinney in 2019.
Former county commissioner Ernie Hernandez secured $500,000 in seed money for the project via a bond election in 2011, and current commissioner Joey Lopez carried the project forward after being elected in 2019.
Lopez, taking his turn at the podium during Monday’s event, recalled that upon an initial meeting with the McKinneys the family agreed to donate six acres right away — great news by itself — but then two weeks later the McKinneys called to say they’d decided to donate the entire 39.3 acres to the county. Lopez called the gift “a blessing.”
“We thank them so much for their unbelievable donation,” he said. “This property is pristine. You know what resaca lots cost. They could have easily developed this property and made a whole bunch of money for themselves.”
The McKinneys chose “Olmito Resaca Nature Park” for the name, but asked that the park’s 2.2 trail be named “Margaret’s Trail” in honor of their daughter, a pediatric neurologist in California, Lopez said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is helping out by awarding a $750,000 grant through its Outdoor Recreational Grant program; $200,000 through its Recreational Trail Grant program; and $52,000 to build a kayak launch on the park’s resaca. The grants are funded through a sales tax on sporting goods sold in the state. The park will also feature three fishing piers, and TPWD has committed to stocking the resaca with fish, Lopez said.
Plans for the park include two observation towers for bird watching, plaques identifying native flora, a community center and, near the entrance, 20 recreational vehicle sites with showers and restrooms, he said.
“That money that comes from there is going to be used to maintain the park so that taxpayers … don’t have to worry about maintaining this park,” Lopez said.
The finished park, with its various amenities and emphasis on preserving native habitat, will be something every county resident can be proud of, he said.
TPWD Local Parks Grants Manager Dan Reece, also on hand for the dedication, said the grants are awarded through a competitive application process and that the Olmito Resaca Nature Park project scored highly because it’s so worthwhile.
“I would like to take just a moment to congratulate the entire Cameron County team for the preparation and submittal of this year’s top ranking application,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coming back in a couple of years and seeing the finished product.”
Reece said TPWD is “looking forward to continuing our long and successful partnership with Cameron County, as they continue to provide quality recreation to their citizens throughout the Lower Rio Grande Valley.”
Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. said the project is an example of the county maximizing its use of local dollars by leveraging them to attract additional funding — in this case from TPWD.
“The joint partnership works because our friends at the state are willing to partner with us and help us with the money needed,” he said. “Without that partnership we wouldn’t be able to get a lot of our things done.”
County Parks Director Joe Vega said the county has invested more than $60 million in park improvements in recent years and that more improvements are on the horizon. He said the new park will be a “great addition to the community of Olmito, to Cameron County and the whole state of Texas.”