McALLEN, RGV – Dear Mayor Darling and Commissioners Salinas, Ramirez, Pebley, Ingram, Crane, and Whitacre.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club is concerned that if Proposition 1 passes, the City of McAllen plans to use a portion of the $15 million raised to construct a road through Westside Park.

This road would bisect the one of the largest contiguous green spaces in McAllen, separating Westside Park from the McAllen Botanical Garden, and would inflict irreparable damage to both parks. It would also be entirely unnecessary and wasteful of taxpayer funds.

The Sierra Club urges the city to abandon plans to build a road through Westside Park.

Stefanie Herweck
Stefanie Herweck

McAllen should instead use funds raised through Proposition 3 to plant native trees and otherwise enhance the natural beauty of Westside Park, and also devote a portion of those funds to the reopening of the McAllen Botanical Garden. Rather than see our very limited parklands as empty space just waiting for roads, we encourage you to develop a vision for the City of McAllen that maintains the integrity of all of our parks and treats the heritage forest that the McAllen Botanical Garden houses like the irreplaceable gem that it is by making it the focal point of a contiguous “Central Park.”

Earlier this year we were heartened to find out that the City wants to preserve the McAllen Botanical Garden forest as a natural sanctuary, but such a plan requires special environmental considerations. That’s why in May of this year an Environmental Review of the potential impacts of this road, as well as other proposed actions, was prepared for the Sierra Club. A copy of that study is attached to this letter. Frank J. Dirrigl, Jr., an Environmental Scientist at the University of Texas at Pan American with years of experience conducting environmental impact studies, concluded that building a road through Westside Park, thereby separating Westside from the Botanical Garden, would have the following negative impacts:

o Elevated noise levels potentially will affect existing bird breeding

o Roadway lighting associated with alignment and extension can cause a disruption to diurnal patterns of light and dark for wildlife

o Bisection of existing natural habitat leading to habitat fragmentation can lead to changes in wildlife species composition and changes in biodiversity (i.e., total number of plant and animal species)

o Increase in traffic potentially will result in roadkills of existing wildlife that move to/use the existing water bodies to the south

o Placement of paved road could result in decrease of animal movement. Small mammals are known to avoid pavement and the open areas of roadways

o Studies suggest that busy roads and nature reserves should be well separated to avoid road-effects

o The proposed roadway will result in construction, short-term, and long-term effects that will occur beyond the immediate vicinity of the roadway

If the City of McAllen pursues efforts to build a road through Westside Park the Sierra Club, along with our allies, will vigorously oppose the City’s plans.

McAllen voters have repeatedly rejected schemes that would harm the McAllen Botanical Garden and Westside Park, most notably the ballot measure that would have destroyed the native habitat to put in tennis courts. The City should respect the will of the people to protect, rather than undermine, these last pockets of forest within McAllen has been made abundantly clear.

Please, do not punch a road through Westside Park.

The Sierra Club looks forward to working with the City of McAllen to truly enhance our quality of life by preserving our parks. Thank you for your attention to this issue.

Herweck is chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club. She lives in McAllen, Texas.