SAN BENITO — After weeks of debate, the city’s walking trails have reopened after a shutdown aimed at limiting exposure to the coronavirus.
Earlier this week, city commissioners voted to reopen the Heavin Resaca Trail, one of the city’s most popular attractions drawing residents to walk, jog and exercise.
For the second time in nearly a month, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa recommended commissioners reopen the trails, citing Gov. Greg Abbott’s order reopening state parks.
“We are getting some requests,” De La Rosa told commissioners Tuesday. “There is some debate whether the trails should be opened or not opened.”
However, De La Rosa recommended the city’s parks remain closed.
“We continue to believe due to public safety, or public health more specifically, the parks should continue to be closed,” he said.
But Mayor Ben Gomez opposed the plan to reopen the city’s trails, warning Cameron County’s numbers of COVID-19 cases were too high.
“I hear no declining in the numbers and I hear no leveling out on the numbers so to me, my opinion, my concern right now is the well-being of the people and the health,” Gomez said.
Gomez said some residents oppose the trails’ reopening.
“I’m sorry — I do get concerns of people wanting to walk,” he said. “I get people that want to walk but still don’t want to open them. I say we need to keep it closed at least another month or till next meeting and see what the numbers are and see what’s happening there.”
But Commissioner Rene Villafranco continued to push to reopen the trails, adding Cameron County was reopening parks.
“When we first came into this COVID-19 thing, you said we were going to follow the governor, the county,” Villafranco told Gomez. “The county has done its part. We need to open our trails so our people, residents —everybody’s going to Harlingen. Everybody’s finding somewhere to exercise. We have this trail everybody uses, everybody knows.”
Commissioner Tony Gonzales, who last month sided with Gomez, voted with Villafranco to reopen the trails.
Commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez was absent.