Alton, Mission receive $1M in grants for parks

MISSION — Two local park projects will receive $1 million in funding help through state grants.

Last week, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, announced the cities of Alton and Mission would each receive a $500,000 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

One of the grants will go toward expanding Alton’s Josefa Garcia Park from five to almost 30 acres. Current plans are for the expanded park to include a splash pad, soccer fields, exercise stations, and hike and bike trails.

The city has not officially accepted the grant rating which will be before the city commission during the next meeting. However, City Manager Jorge Arcaute said it would be safe to assume the commissioner will approve it.

“We’ve grown a little bit more, as we keep saying,” Arcaute said. “This is just keeping up with those quality-of-life issues that our residents are demanding.”

The park is located on North Bryan Road and Main Street and the hope is to expand it onto adjacent land that the city owns, Arcaute said.

Last year, the city retained Halff Associates, an engineering firm, to conduct a master parks plan.

However, plans are still preliminary and subject to change; therefore, so is the price. Currently, the city has earmarked $500,000 to match the grant funds.

“When you get this kind of money, which is a little more serious for a city our size, if the project maybe goes a little beyond that, we’ll be looking to leverage some other funds,” Arcaute said. “I’m looking at it more as taking advantage of this funding opportunity and trying to get as many amenities as possible.”

For Mission, the grant will be used to construct a tennis center in Mission’s Birdwell Park that will serve both the Mission and Sharyland school districts.

The park, located on North Stewart Road, already has three tennis courts but, with construction of the center, would house an additional 12.

The plans for the project have been discussed publicly as early as July 2016 and hope to work with the United States Tennis Association to allow the center to host statewide college tournaments.

Hinojosa, as the vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and the lead budget author for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the last two sessions, helped secure the two grants. Overall, more than $60 million in state funding were secured for the Local Parks Grants Program.

“Parks are a vital part of creating a livable community,” Hinojosa stated in a news release. “They provide a number of benefits, such as offering a gathering place for families and friends of all ages and economic status, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and enhancing area property values. I applaud Alton and Mission officials for their efforts in not only improving these parks, but in also improving their communities.”