A new agreement between Cameron County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could mean improvements at Adolph Tomae Jr. County Park, though visitors will not notice any immediate changes to their experience there.
The Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department began leasing the federally owned land in 1986. After that lease expired, the USFWS allowed the department to continue to manage the property through issuing a special use permit on Dec. 31, 2012.
County officials have worked all year to
reach a long-term agreement with the federal agency, which Parks Director Javier Mendez said included a management plan.
On Thursday, the Cameron County Commissioners’ Court agreed to the new plan, which was vetted by
the USFWS, and accepted the terms of the
right-of-way permit to allow the county to continue maintaining and operating the park.
The term “right-of-way” permit is simply the agency’s new term for the lease, Mendez said.
The new agreement assures the county will maintain and operate the park for the next 25 years.
The new lease will qualify the park for new grants, as most grant agencies require long-term assurances that the grant funding will have a lasting effect.
The management plan details the manners by which park staff will continue to operate the park, which is a part of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Talking about the popular spot for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, Mendez said his staff works hard to maintain the park both as a nature reserve and as recreation destination.
“That’s the toughest part of our job is trying to balance that,” he said. “We try to provide the public as much access as possible.”
One example of walking the tightrope between public access and conservation concerns the park’s shoreline stabilization plan, he said.
In some areas, the park was able to construct inexpensive seawalls to prevent erosion, but in other areas workers had to use more specialized stabilization materials to allow for animals to pass through, even as the animal-friendly options affected fishermen.
The management plan approved Thursday will be revisited each January, Mendez said, as he considers it to be a working document that will change with the needs of the park.
But the plan currently shows a number of improvements that the county intends to implement at the park, including two new boat-launching slips, new cabanas and an expansion of the parking lot.
A grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will cover the boat access and parking lot projects, Mendez said.
The plan also calls for the paving of the main road at the park and improvements to the recreational vehicle sites.
The management plan includes prohibitions against the removal of vegetation at the park in an effort to maintain its most natural state. Thick, heavy brush provides habitats for many types of animals, Mendez said, noting that the county maintains only the areas nearest to the road and along paths.
“In other areas, we leave it as natural as possible,” he said.
The park will also expand in the near future, Mendez said, gaining another three acres to the east and allowing limited access for those wanting to fish in the inlet that leads to the refuge.
The eventual plan is to have a small fishing pier there, he said.