HARLINGEN — City officials are planning a $1.5 million project to develop a 1.6-mile stretch of trail winding along the Arroyo Colorado from McKelvey Park to Dixieland Park.

Two years ago, the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation awarded the city a $1.2 million grant to help fund the project.

After the city spent more than $200,000 to fund engineering studies, construction plans and environmental reviews, agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the International Boundary and Water Commission and U.S. Parks and Wildlife approved the project.

Earlier this week, members of the Harlingen Community Improvement Board took the first step to fund about $500,000 of the project, approving the publication of a 60-day public comment period.

First trail in five years

Plans call for the city’s first extension to its popular Arroyo Hike and Bike Trail in nearly five years.

As part of the project, the trail would wind 1.6 miles along the banks of the Arroyo Colorado, across three pedestrian bridges, from McKelvey Park to Dixieland Park.

“It’s part of our health and wellness initiative — we want residents to have options to do more outdoor activities,” Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said Tuesday.

“The beauty of it is that it runs along the side of the Arroyo Colorado so you get the nature,” he said. “It’s a getaway from the city with nature — nice, peaceful and refreshing.”

Now, officials are reviewing sites for the project’s $157,000 parking lot, part of the city’s proposed general fund budget.

Expanding trail system

The project is part of the city’s Trails Master Plan, calling for more than 40 miles of trails.

“We’ve been talking about this project and construction of trails for years — well over 20 years,” City Manager Dan Serna told members of the community improvement board during a meeting Monday.

As part of the master plan, officials envision a network of trails connecting the city’s parks and retail centers, linking Texas State Technical College to bicycle routes while giving birders and nature buffs scenic tours along parts of the World Birding Center at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

About 20 years ago, the city built its original 2.7-mile Hike and Bike Trail running from McKelvey Park to Interstate 69 near Arroyo Park.