Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Isla Blanca Revisited

The year was 1984 and I was employed as a school teacher in Weslaco. After four years of spending every vacation and almost every weekend on South Padre Island I was ready to just give in and move here. Perusing the local want ads for a suitable dwelling, I found a listing for a trailer home (i.e. - a vintage travel trailer with a little house built over it) - described in the ad as a "permanent residence" in Isla Blanca Park. it was love at first sight. I paid $8000 (owner financed) and signed a lease with the county that stated I could stay right where I was as long as I paid my monthly rent. I loved it there - just a stone's throw from the Brownsville Ship channel and close enough to the old "Ocean Safari" park (now Dolphin cove) that I could hear the lions roar at night.

(Photos - "sandy feets beach retreat" circa 1989 and Thanksgiving 1990 with a bunch of people who - amazingly enough - are still here. See anyone you recognize?)

It was my ideal neighborhood teeming with surfers and artists and other way cool people and I enjoyed eight idyllic years there. When we got our eviction notices some of us talked to reporters, wrote articles and letters, organized meetings, made impassioned speeches and talked to lawyers about our options -- which were few. The county owns the property and they hold all the cards. In the end, I was forced to abandon my sweet little home, later spotted in Laguna Heights where the new inhabitants took their sweet time painting over the pink and green sand castles I had lovingly detailed on the exterior walls....

So I can sympathize with the current residents who are just now seeing the writing on the wall. Yes, you folks believe you have a great little community that should be there for you to return to every winter into the foreseeable future. You understand that you contribute to the economic well-being of the Island and are convinced that your presence is welcomed and appreciated. Just like we "permanent residents" did. But I am here to tell you that if the county sees a way to make more money off that little bit of extremely valuable property, all the meetings with lawyers, chats with reporters, well-written letters and impassioned speeches you can muster will get you absolutely nowhere.

The coyotes were here first, followed by the native Americans who get supplanted by the Catholics who got hoodwinked by the rich white people who stopped paying attention long enough to let in the artists and surfers who got supplanted by the Winter Texans who are now likely to be nudged out by a high-dollar resort.

So we all bragged about what a wonderful place South Padre is and (holy shit!) folks started listening and checking it out and next thing you know the lots are priced out of the range of artists and surfers and maybe even Winter Texans and the developers feel compelled to build high-density condo complexes on every build-able inch and the old-timers wax nostalgic over what a fine place this was back in the day and shuffle off to Port Mansfield where undoubtedly a similar scenario awaits them -- if they live long enough.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a cool story SF. And I have "waxed nostalgic" way to much over what SPI was. I guess I'm one of those that will shuffle off to Port M although it's not the same(not on the island) but still sorta small and sleepy.In the 70's-80's my friends and myself wished for it to grow a little and for a few more amenities. I guess it's true, be careful what you wish for.
Thanks for the story. george

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I submitted my letter to the editor. Several of the proposed "improvements" sound ok, up to the condos! As for P/M, we stayed at a nice fishing lodge there before buying our lot on SPI, it's just not the same. If that lifestyle was what we were after we'd just buy a park model over on Long Island Village.

Good Luck with the Pacific Sand!

Tha Beerman!

11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, that sure does bring back memories, SF. The more that I think about the issue of IBP, the more that I truly believe that it needs to be a state park. It deserves to be. It is an important recreational assat and needs to be preserved for the use of all Texans and not allowed to be at the disposal for the short term budgetary needs of poverty stricken Cameron County.

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandy Feet, the photo was in 1989 or 1990 because that's JC and I on the right and I'm on crutches from falling on the steps of the ancient mobile home we lived in across the street from you, after we helped you move your home the next street over at the whim of the park authorities....I forget for what "reason."

One thing I remember most is taking our two dogs, (we miss you Sadie and Beauregard), and two cats and your dog, (we miss you, Dune Dog), and cats on our evening walk over to Dolphin Cove. Yeah, there was a leash law in effect, but the park security knew our dogs were well behaved and sort of smilingly overlooked the fact. The cats would stalk mice and crabs and the dogs would stalk the cats.

Those were the days when the local residents, not the developers and businesses, owned the Island, and peace reigned, and we were all flat broke! Ahh, the good ole days.

Aunt Dorothy

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i too miss those days. i feel so fortunate to have been able to live them. i remember the day i came to the island, actually it was night time, i went for a walk on the beach, turned to my friend and said....."this is my new home, it's the place i've been searching for all my life". as you know i've moved on but i seriously doubt i will ever find a place like south padre was when the people owned it.

12:46 PM  

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