Work begins on 16-mile Mid-Valley hike and bike trail

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WESLACO — A new hike-and-bike trail in the Mid-Valley will eventually connect to established trail systems in San Juan, McAllen and Edinburg.

Construction of the first two miles of the 16-mile trail recently got underway at the Harlon Block Sports Complex in South Weslaco, where Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner David Fuentes spoke of his excitement over a project he characterized as a “dream.”

“It’s really exciting! I mean, when we did our groundbreaking and we finally got the green light to get started with it, it was probably one of the proudest things I had done,” Fuentes told The Monitor on Tuesday.

“I think that this is going to be impactful for not just my generation, but generations to follow because it’s going to be the first of its kind in this area,” he added.

The county is investing a total of $6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds on the project. Fuentes is contributing $5 million from his precinct’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA funds while county Judge Richard F. Cortez has contributed another $1 million from his allocation.

“If there’s monies leftover, we’re gonna move into the Delta area and start connecting La Villa, Edcouch and Elsa,” Fuentes said referring to a proposal to build another 5.9 miles of standalone trail in the Delta that could one day be connected to the trail currently under construction in Weslaco.

The Mid-Valley trail will be constructed in three phases that largely follow along the rights-of-way of local irrigation and drainage districts. Along the way, it will connect with municipal parks, near schools, and other public places, Fuentes said.

“We have entities that we work with. This one right here, the Weslaco segment, is Hidalgo County and Cameron County Irrigation District No. 9. So, they’re the two miles we’re working on right now,” Fuentes said.

The second segment will consist of 5.7 miles heading west through the heart of Donna, including a stop downtown at La Placita Park.

“That’s Donna Irrigation District. And then after Donna Irrigation District, this is all drainage district right-of-way. So, we’re just using our drainage district right-of-way,” Fuentes said, referring to Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1, upon which the third phase will be built.

A map shows the future a bike path under construction from Weslaco to San Juan on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in Weslaco. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

That final eight-mile stretch will run through Alamo and connect to the Precinct 2 hike and bike trail in San Juan.

From there, officials hope to one day connect to the popular Second Street and Bicentennial hike and bike trails in McAllen, and ultimately, Edinburg’s Jackson Road trail, which stretches from just south of Canton Road to Chapin Street north of State Highway 107.

Earlier this month, officials in McAllen and Edinburg broke ground on a 1.5-mile trail that will connect the Second Street and Jackson Road trails.

“That’s what we call regionalism,” District 6 McAllen Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Cabeza de Vaca said about the prospect of creating a countywide interconnected trail system.

“We’re very happy to have the opportunity to connect all these communities and now the runners and the bikers will have an uninterrupted path,” he added a moment later.

Back in Weslaco, Commissioner Fuentes spoke of his hope that the trail system will not only give residents a place to work out their bodies, but their minds, as well.

“We’re addressing physical health here, but there’s also a mental wellness component,” Fuentes said.

“You see a bunch of nature around you and it really connects you back to what’s important and hopefully relieves some of that mental stress that — whether you’re a kid or whether you’re an adult — we all go through our own struggles,” he added a moment later.

Currently, crews are working on building a pedestrian crossing over an irrigation canal just north of the sports park.

Fuentes estimates that the Weslaco segment of the trail should take about six weeks to complete and hopes all 16 miles can be done by the end of the year.

“Something that started as a dream is now a reality,” Cabeza de Vaca said.