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State approves $606,617 grant to help develop $1.2 million Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail in Edinburg, announce Rep. Canales, Sen. Hinojosa - Hike-and-Bike Trail - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured, from left: Erika Canales; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; and Ronnie Larralde, Executive Director, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. This image was taken on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, during the grand opening ceremony for Rep. Canales’ District Office, which is located at the Edinburg Depot, 602 W. University Drive.

Photograph By NAYELI ZENTEÑO

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State approves $606,617 grant to help develop $1.2 million Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail in Edinburg, announce Rep. Canales, Sen. Hinojosa

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

The Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail, determined to be a top priority during the development of the 2019 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, on Thursday, August 27, 2020, was approved for a $606,617 state grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, have announced.

Funding for this grant program comes from a portion of the state sales tax on sporting goods and from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Stateside Assistance Program.

The total project cost for the Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail is $1,213,234, said Canales, whose House District 40 includes most of Edinburg. The City would provide the required match of $606,617.

“According to its grant application to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) is eager to provide this new park to the community, and will be primarily responsible for its operation and maintenance,” added Canales, who also serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation. “PARD is committed to promoting a good, healthy lifestyle through parks and programs that bring the family and whole community together.”

Hinojosa, whose Senate District 20 includes the City of Edinburg, said the state funds will help Edinburg meet the recreational needs of their community and improve the quality of life for its residents.

“Local parks are a vital part of creating a livable community. They provide a number of benefits, such as offering a gathering place for families and friends of all ages and economic status and enhance area property values. Local parks also help contribute to the physical, social, and mental well-being of its residents,” said Hinojosa, who serves as Vice-Chair, Senate Committee on Finance. “I applaud Edinburg officials for applying for these grants and for their efforts in improving their community.”

As Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Hinojosa worked to secure more than $36.1 million in state funding for Local Parks Grants for the 2020-21 biennium.

The roles of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations, according to the state agency website.

The department is governed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which is composed of nine members, appointed by the governor with the approval of the Senate. Members serve six-year overlapping terms. The commission chairperson is appointed biennially by the governor. The commission meets quarterly or more often as needed. Its chief responsibility is to adopt policies and rules to carry out the programs of the Parks and Wildlife Department.

Helps Address Needs for More Walking Trails

According to the narrative provided by the city government to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department:

The project is located within northwest Edinburg and fills a critical usage gap. This application proposes the development of the Chapin Road Hike and Bike Trail, a total project area of 37.11 acres.

In the Master Plan, the prioritization of projects outlines the need to add more walking trails, especially in northwest Edinburg where the project is located. This priority was planned to be addressed in 2021 through 2026, although projects may be moved up based on funding and interest.

Additionally, based on the park inventory, needs assessment, 2019 Edinburg Parks and Recreation survey comments, and additional public input from the May 2019 Master Plan Community Meeting, walking trails were identified as the No. 2 top priority for park development. The No. 1 top priority desired in Edinburg parks is inclusive and accessible play structures.

Citizens are hungry for the Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail. While the project is currently undeveloped, it is used daily by the community. Citizens use the popular site as a walking trail, despite its current rough state.

Embedded desire paths leading to the site demonstrate how ideally situated the site is to be developed to fill critical parks and recreation gap. To further demonstrate the project’s ideal design, the site is safely accessible to the public via multiple modes of transportation. The project site is along an existing separated bikeway along Jackson Road, and along a proposed separated bikeway along Sugar Road and Chapin Street, as per the City 2017 Bikeway and Pedestrian Plan.

To fulfill the identified priorities of adding walking trails in Northwest Edinburg and adding walking trails citywide, the proposed project includes the following elements: an approximate 1.15-mile long hike-and-bike trail (6,120 linear feet long, 10’ wide, with a 6-in. concrete header curb); 25 solar lights; 6 benches; parking lot extension providing 30 additional spaces along with ADA ramps; professional services; and an irrigation and landscaping system, including native trees and landscaping around the ponds to create deterrence for safety.

Of the top 10 Priorities for Park Development, the No. 7 top priority is trees and native plants, which the project scope will include. The 2019-2020 prioritization of projects also calls for the addition of trees and water-wise native plants.

The project scope also meets the need identified in the 2021 through 2026 prioritization of projects that calls for the City to develop off-road, non-competitive bike facilities.

PARD Currently Oversees 18 Parks and Recreational Facilities

This project meets the requirements listed in the 2019 Parks and Master Plan’s Table 5.1 Suggested Facilities Space Guidelines for recommended size and dimensions: “A well-delineated head maximum of 10’ width, maximum average grade 5%, not to exceed 15%. Capacity urban trails – 90 hikers/day/mile.”

PARD currently oversees 18 parks and recreational facilities, including the 156-acre Municipal Park, the largest in Edinburg’s park system. Municipal Park has 9 baseball/softball fields, picnic facilities, fitness stations and benches along an approximate 1.5-mile trail, play areas, and 2 ponds for fishing. 

There are internal master plans for improving all parks, facilities, and programs. The City’s ongoing efforts to improve existing parks include the addition of 2 new splash pads, new restrooms, and rehabilitating the existing skatepark with other funding streams, such as Certificates of Obligation.

PARD will be assisted by the City’s Community Development/Grants Management Department to meet grant deliverables and to resolve any operation and maintenance issues that may arise. 

The city is in compliance with its past four TPWD grants.

In 2019, Edinburg received TPWD approval of its Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The city had been working toward this approval to seek future grants and has a vested interest in this project’s successful
operation and maintenance, as consistent citizen feedback has called for more green space and trails.

Given the accelerated population growth, Edinburg is advancing efforts to expand parks and recreation infrastructure Citywide.

The Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail Project’s demand is grounded in needs assessments, public input, and standard for user data to be detailed in the critical recreation gap and community need sections.
The project’s service area is located in northwest Edinburg and is not located in any existing park’s service area. 

The need for additional trails is outlined in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, especially in northwest Edinburg. It is in a CDBG-eligible (low-to-moderate-level income) area. It is anticipated that traditionally underserved residents will use the trail.

While Edinburg’s poverty level is over 1 in 4 (25.9%), as per the US Census, the poverty in the project’s Census Tract is over 1 in 3 (34.5%), as per the US Economic Development Administration’s Stats America Distress Calculator. While the 2017 US per capita money income (PCMI) was $31,177, the project’s Census Tract PCMI was less than half of that ($13,644).

The Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail Project fills a critical recreation gap in the City of Edinburg, demonstrated by citizen feedback as well as the City of Edinburg’s Parks and Recreation Department’s (PARD) standards-based approaches.

10-Minute Walk

The Parks and Recreation Department’s goals of providing a park within a 10-minute walk for any citizen, outlined in the 2019 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, also influenced the community need for this project.

Currently, the City is divided into 12 park zones. Each park has a service area which is used to indicate what neighborhoods and surrounding area might be the users of the park. In the zone where this project is located, Zone 2C, there is only one park. 

Frontier Park does not have a walking trail. Its inventory is one basketball court, four picnic shelters, nine picnic tables, two playscapes, and one swing set. Based on the existing parks service areas, the Chapin Road Hike-and-Bike Trail is out of the quarter-mile and one-half mile radius rings that suggest a person might walk or bike to the park in a reasonable 10-minute time span.

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY, WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE SUSPEND FALL 2020 ATHLETICS DUE TO THREATS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics learned on Thursday, August 13, 2020, that, due to health and safety concerns for student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans amide the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Board of Directors voted to suspend all fall championship and non-championship athletics competition through the end of the calendar year.

This means UTRGV will not participate in fall competition in the sports of volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer, cross country, golf, tennis, and baseball.

If NCAA Championships for volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and cross country are moved to the spring and it is feasible, the WAC plans to conduct the respective sports during the same time frame. 

The golf, tennis, and baseball teams, which have their championship segments in the spring, are currently scheduled to resume competition no earlier than Friday, January 1, 2021. 

Men’s and women’s basketball competition will be postponed through the end of October 2020 pending Board discussion on winter athletics competition. 

Conditioning, strength training, and other practice opportunities in all sports will be permitted per institutional discretion. 

“This was a difficult decision, but one made with our student-athletes’ health and welfare at the forefront,” UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said. “The last few months have dealt us considerable adversity, but I am confident that we will work through these challenging times and emerge stronger. The future remains bright for UTRGV Athletics and the Rio Grande Valley.” 

“It obviously was a difficult decision, and not one made lightly,” WAC Commission Jeff Hurd said. “But it was one made after extensive discussion and consideration of all relevant factors as well as input from conference administrators and the Medical Advisory Committee. The health and safety of our student-athletes, the many others associated with our athletics programs, and all those in our campus environments always will be the highest priority.”

The WAC is one of 18 NCAA Division I conferences to suspend fall competition, accounting for 56.25 percent of the 32 conferences, along with the America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big South, Big Ten, Big West, Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, Mountain West, Northeast, Pac-12, Patriot League, Summit League, and SWAC. 

Additionally, Eastern Washington (Big Sky) and Old Dominion (Conference USA) have canceled fall competition, making UTRGV one of 193 institutions, accounting for 53.76 percent of the 359 NCAA Division I members, that has announced it will not participate in fall competition due to the pandemic. 

The NCAA announced on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, that, if 50 percent or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division. 

If fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19, along with other considerations. 

The divisions must have determined by Friday, August 21, 2020, whether their respective fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year. All five of the fall sports in which UTRGV competes have crossed the 50 percent threshold, including men’s cross country (52.91 percent), women’s cross country (53.45 percent), men’s soccer (64.53 percent), women’s soccer (53.43 percent) and volleyball (52.57 percent). 

“Our primary focus continues to be the development of our student-athletes – mind, body and spirit,” Conque said. “While today’s decision delays competition, our commitment to our young people has never been stronger. We will continue to invest in the academic and athletic careers of our student-athletes and we all look forward to the day we return to competition and unite with our fans and campus community.” 

UTRGV volleyball season ticket holders that have already paid can choose to either donate the balance to the V Club, receive a credit that is good for 2021 volleyball season tickets or receive a refund. 

Season ticket holders also have the option of deferring their decision until it is known whether there will be a spring volleyball season. Questions regarding tickets should be directed to the UTRGV Fan Relationship Management Center team of Carlos Muñoz and Tiffany Ochoa at[email protected]. For all the latest updates from UTRGV, visit UTRGV.edu/coronavirus.

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Jonah Goldberg and Dariel Ramírez contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and a member of the Sunset Advisory Commission. Rep. Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.

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