Day Trips: Active Plan, Brownsville

Tropical trail mix comes to the RGV

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The Active Plan in Brownsville wants to get visitors and residents outdoors to discover the area's recreational resources. The nationally recognized program is a blueprint for a 428-mile network of walking and biking paths and paddling trails that show off the diversity of the lower Rio Grande Valley.

The southernmost tip of Texas is a tropical paradise of rare birds, secretive mammals, and palm trees swaying in the Gulf breeze. Before the Rio Grande was channelized, the Brownsville area was a wide river delta that left behind oxbow lakes and rescasas, former river channels enclosed at both ends, which are ideal for recreational adventures.

Courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Brownsville already has more than 100 miles of bicycle lanes, including 25 miles of dedicated hike-and-bike paths that connect the city's neighborhoods, says City Commissioner Rose Gowen. Relatively flat terrain in the area makes biking appropriate for any skill level.

A good example is the city's Historic Battlefield Trail, which utilizes a former railroad right-of-way to connect the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park to downtown. The Active Plan extends the trail to the town of Los Fresnos. Trail construction is paid for entirely with grant money.

Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

Keith Laughlin, president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a partner on the Active Plan, calls the proposal one of the most innovative projects in the country. Not only will the trails provide healthy alternatives for residents, they will attract recreational tourists. "It's a real twofer for the community," he says.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Transportation and Tourism Plan begins with six "catalyst projects" that start the process of stitching 11 communities together with scenic and historic trails. For more information, go to

1,422nd in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle