HARLINGEN — Soon, a new trail will wind 1.6 miles along the banks of the Arroyo Colorado, crossing two bridges while stretching from Arroyo Park to the steps of Dixieland Park.
On Tuesday, Mayor Chris Boswell led city leaders in christening the $1.7 million project to develop the city’s first extension of the 2.7-mile Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail in five years.
“It’s another great Christmas present for our community,” Boswell said at the trail’s head near Boggus Ford, which donated land where the city plans to build the trail’s $157,000 parking lot.
The new trail, which will connect Arroyo Park, will run from the Ford dealership under the Interstate 69 underpass, straddle the Tony Butler Golf Course and wind along the Bonita Park area before stretching to the edges of Dixieland Park.
Two years ago, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation awarded the city a $1.2 million grant to help fund the project.
After the city spent more than $200,000 to fund engineering studies, construction plans and environmental reviews, agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the International Boundary and Water Commission and U.S. Parks and Wildlife approved the project.
Then last month, the Harlingen Community Improvement Board earmarked $500,000 to help fund the project.
Exercise during pandemic
Standing along the trail, Boswell hailed the project as the latest part of the city’s award-winning program aimed at promoting exercise and healthy lifestyles to help counter the area’s high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
“The Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail is one of the real gems of our community, something that people know our community for,” Boswell said. “It’s a fantastic way to get a workout, to take a walk, to ride a bicycle, to improve your health. Now, we’re enhancing that through this extension.”
After years of planning, the Legacy Foundation’s grant will help fund the project giving residents a chance to safely exercise outdoors amid the coronavirus pandemic, Boswell said.
Boswell praised the foundation for its “investment in the health and well being of all our residents here because (the trail) gives us another opportunity to exercise and combat what some people are calling the COVID-19, a few pounds that we put on as we’ve not been as active. But these outdoor trails allow us to be active even during the pandemic.”
Legacy Foundation’s gift
For about seven years, the Legacy Foundation has dedicated itself to funding health programs across the Rio Grande Valley, aiming to help curb the region’s high rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
Standing on the trail, Executive Director Judy Quisenberry urged residents to exercise outdoors during the pandemic.
“We’re thrilled to see this,” she said. “In the time of a pandemic, the best way to exercise is to be outside. We’re really lucky that we have so many outdoor spaces and the climate here in the Valley that allows us to enjoy it all year round.”
The project is part of the city’s Trails Master Plan, calling for more than 40 miles of trails.
As part of the master plan, officials envision a network of trails connecting the city’s parks and retail centers, linking Texas State Technical College to bicycle routes while giving birders and nature buffs scenic tours along parts of the World Birding Center at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.
About 20 years ago, the city built its original 2.7-mile Hike and Bike Trail running from McKelvey Park to Interstate 69 near Arroyo Park.