Edcouch snags $1 million park grant

EDCOUCH — City leaders here were ecstatic to announce a $1 million grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that will go toward renovating Edcouch’s municipal pool and turn a pavilion into a community center.

Mayor Virginio “Virgil” Gonzalez Jr. made the announcement, along with members of the Edcouch City Council and Dist. 35 state Rep. Oscar Longoria, in a small ceremony just outside city hall Monday afternoon.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity for the residents of Edcouch,” Gonzalez said.

“I know that some might just say, ‘Well, it’s a swimming pool, it’s just a community center.’ But it’s been long overdue for us,” he said.

The city hopes to use the grant to update its 1970s-era public swimming pool — the Victor Leggett Pool — turning the facility into an accessible waterpark.

The pool’s increased accessibility is of key importance to the mayor, a lifelong educator who now works as an administrator in special education at Edcouch-Elsa ISD.

“This is dear to my heart,” the mayor said. “And we have a lot of children, adults, that have physical disabilities that they need this type of access,” he said.

A portion of the funds will also be used to enclose the Sgt. M. Rodriguez Pavilion and reimagine it as a community center and virtual library.

The million dollar grant does not require a match in local funds.

“I think it’s important for folks to understand that this is a grant to the city of Edcouch. The taxpayers are not gonna bear any burden on this. This is going to be a gift to the community,” state Rep. Oscar Longoria said during the ceremony.

But the grant is remarkable for more than that, as it will give the city the ability to improve some of its aging infrastructure with a flexibility it doesn’t usually see.

As the mayor noted in his speech, the funds are equal to half of the small town’s annual operating budget.

“It’s not every day that a city … like ours gets a million dollars. A million dollars goes a long way. We have an operating budget of two million a year. So, a million dollars, for us, is something big,” Gonzalez said.

City leaders were able to secure the grant after making a trip to the state capitol this spring. It was precisely that initiative that spurred Longoria to do what he could to help Edcouch.

“You went up there. You advocated for this region, for this area, and specifically for your city. And today we get to see what … the benefits of that endeavor were,” Longoria said.

That the trip to Austin bore such successful fruit was something that left Edcouch leaders glowing.

“For us to be able to go to Austin and have someone pay attention to us over there and allow us to come back and bring this park for the city is just awesome,” City Manager Victor Hugo de la Cruz said.

If all goes well, Edcouch will break ground on the project this coming January. Plans are to have the improvements completed in time for the Fourth of July.