From lush golf courses to picturesque lakes, the Rio Grande Valley abounds with open-air recreation opportunities. But thanks to a network of beautiful parks, McAllen residents need not leave the city to discover a world of outdoor fun.
The Parks Division of the Parks & Recreation Department currently oversees 25 city parks in McAllen, the new centerpiece of which is Fireman’s Park, which will be open to the public in early 2012. The 15-acre project broke ground in October 2010 and represents the city of McAllen’s firm commitment to public spaces.
Perhaps the most unique element of the park, says Sally Gavlik, McAllen’s parks and recreation director, will be its camping option.
“Unlike traditional urban parks, Fireman’s Park contains elements normally found only at a state or regional park,” she says. “That makes the park an excellent stepping stone for people that aren’t accustomed to the camping experience, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”
Fireman’s Park will also boast a 5-acre lake that will be ideal for canoeing and kayaking. The lake will feature a beach area complete with a concession stand. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the lake, a fishing pier will provide park visitors with a great chance to fish without having to leave the city.
In addition to several playground areas, the park will have a circuit of stand-alone exercise equipment specifically designed for outdoor use, as well as several other amenities, including an on-site mini conference center that will hold around 75 people.
Hike and Bike
One of the many things that make the public park system in McAllen so progressive is its network of quality hike-and-bike trails. The trails were expanded in 2010 to help connect the entire city. Similar trail networks in larger cities like Austin inspired the expansion.
“We have been lucky enough to have a city government that realizes city parks are integral to bringing a community together,” Gavlik says.
Indeed, the vitality of McAllen is physically manifested through the city's elaborate system of trails and parks, something long-time McAllen resident Luis Fuentes can attest to.
“The parks here are nice and peaceful,” says 79-year-old Fuentes, who has been using McAllen parks for nearly 30 years. “I do all of my walking and exercising there. And I usually see many people I know while I’m there.”
Family Fun Found Here
McAllen’s Spray and Ground Park has been a hit with kids and parents alike since it opened in 2010. The park has become an especially popular site for birthday parties.
In fact, the park has been such a draw for families across the region that McAllen will be adding a second splash park in 2012 near the Palm View Community Center.
Also new to the park system is Curtis Park, where sections of the park’s picnic tables are often reserved for family reunions.
Sports enthusiasts will enjoy Los Encinos Community Park. One of McAllen’s newest additions, the park is home to baseball, football, soccer and softball fields, in addition to basketball, volleyball and tennis courts.