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.