Long before the three-act Dedication Ceremony of the new Bill Schupp Park Sunken Garden and Amphitheater began Saturday morning, residents gathered to get a peek of the transformation of one of the city’s oldest recreational areas, located at the intersection of Zinnia Avenue and North Main Street.

“People were here until after 11 p.m. Friday night as the fences finally came down,” said David Melaas, Deputy Director of McAllen Parks and Recreation Department. “Everyone was excited to see the final product.”

By morning, a cool north breeze relaxed visitors, city leaders, and members of Bill Schupp’s family, who had flown in overnight for the dedication. Folkloric dancers, local musicians, artists, and a one-act play, performed by STC’s South Texas Players, entertained the crowd while people mixed and enjoyed the beauty of the grounds.

“The beautiful sunken garden features a fountain made of Texas pink granite, each stone weighing over a ton, dedicated to the American family and the flow of life between family members,” said Larry Pressler, director, McAllen Parks and Recreation.

The park, named after Bill Schupp, who served as the City Manager of the City of McAllen for 28 years, was planted with many native flowers and trees. And to get a jump on Arbor Day — a nationally-celebrated event that encourages tree-planting and care, celebrated during the last week in April — a group of children set in motion the festivities by planting a Fantex Ash, which was Bill Schupp’s favorite tree.

“My dad would be so proud this day has come,” Jan Schupp Borrer, Bill Schupp’s daughter, a retired school teacher from Corpus Christi, said. “I want to thank each person who had any part in making this beautiful park possible.”

McAllen Mayor Pro Tem and City Commissioner Marcus Barrera spoke to an audience of nearly 400, stating that the old storm water detention ponds were an “eyesore.” According to Barrera, the area could not be left that way because McAllen, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, is the economic driver of the Valley and the economic engine for the state of Texas.

“My platform has always been to see more parks in our city,” Barrera said. “What Bill Schupp taught us then, he still teaches us now, and that is that beautiful parks and recreation areas will bring our youth back here to live and work. That is vitally important to me and to our community.”

Scott Crane, City Commissioner for District One, spoke of other upcoming parks to look forward to in the next three years. “We’re fiscally-conservative, pay-as-we-go,” Crane said, “so we’ll do a little bit at a time, and we’ll see four wonderful new parks come to our community.”

Crane gave details of one park to be located on the corner of Business 83 and 2nd Street. “It will have one 6-acre urban fishing lake, a camping area and quite a bit of landscaping,” Crane said.

Another park planned will be located off Tamarack and 5th Street. “This will be an off-leash, fenced dog park just like you see in larger cities like Austin and Dallas…with all the amenities,” Crane said. With this announcement, the crowd, many of whom had brought their four-legged friends along with them, erupted in applause.

Near 29th Street, just south of Dove, will be a new 20-acre park that Commissioners just awarded the contract for this past Monday, and will feature playground equipment, picnic facilities, pavilions, restrooms and the city's first Spray Ground for children to cool off in during the hot summer months. “The spray ground will have water jets that shoot up out of the soft rubberized floor,” Crane said.

And, finally, behind Morris Middle School, north of Trenton and Main Street, the city, in cooperation with McAllen School District is building a new 52-acre city/school park and storm water detention facility similar to McAuliffe City/School Park at Daffodil and 29th Street. “It’s about 70 percent complete with excavation, and landscape may begin late this year,” Crane said. “McAllen has a lot to look forward to.”

Pressler acknowledged and gave special thanks to all of Bill Schupp’s family, many of whom attended the event. He then recognized the many city officials in the audience who contributed to the park’s transformation, including: Mayor Pro Tem/City Commissioner Marcus Barrera; former Mayors Leo Montalvo and Othal Brand; former Mayors Pro Tem Jan Klinck and Phyllis Griggs; City Commissioners Scott Crane, Hilda Salinas, John Ingram and Jim Darling; and former Mayors Robert Barnes and Jack Whetsel. Special thanks went to the city’s park board members, many former park board members and city department heads who were in attendance. Pressler also thanked City Manager Mike Perez, Deputy City Manager Brent Branham, SSP Design, Rio Valley Construction, and Green Thumb Landscaping, among others.

“This was not just a project of the Parks and Recreation Department,” Pressler said. “It took the entire city to complete a project like this, all functioning as a team.

To reserve the public outdoor amphitheatre for “Shakespeare in the Park” or other performances and special events, call 681-3333.

“City of McAllen, enjoy this beautiful facility!” said Jan Schupp Borrer before leaving the stage.