Park honors NASCAR legends.

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Campers started arriving Friday (April 6) at Labonte Park in Corpus Christi, Texas, in an orderly and organized manner as the city for the first time regulated the long-standing Easter tradition by charging for permits, changing traffic patterns and monitoring the park.

“It actually went very smoothly,” Neomi Ramirez, senior management assistant for the Corpus Christi Parks & Recreation Department, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

If the park sold out, the city expected between 2,000 and 2,500 people.

This is the first year the city required campers to buy permits for designated spots in its aim to more closely regulate the tradition that dates so far back, no one seems to remember how or when it began. Each permit is valid for three days and costs $25 for a tent camping space and $50 for an RV camping space.

Public outcry about the condition of the park last year prompted the city to look at ways to better organize Easter weekend, the busiest time for Labonte Park. The money raised from selling permits will be used to offset the cost of cleaning the park that borders the Nueces River.

Also new this year, parking is restricted to certain areas and traffic will be guided in one direction. The city is providing two garbage bins and staff will empty park trash cans throughout the weekend.

Ramirez said she was pleased with the way campers have reacted to the new rules.

She said many people said they liked the new regulations and thanked the city for instituting the paid permit system that allows them to hold onto a space without having to guard it night and day.

“This is what I was hoping would happen,” Ramirez said.

Some campers who have spent Easter in Labonte Park for decades weren’t pleased with the rules, particularly the permit fees, but one couple staying at the park for the first time said they thought the fee was reasonable.

“It’s worth it,” said Martin Yglesias of Taft.

Sylvia Uballe, whose family snagged eight side-by-side spots along the riverside, said the fee isn’t unreasonably high but the city should provide more amenities if it’s going to charge for a public park.

“It would be nice to have water out here,” she said. “Right now, we have to go into town to get it.”

Uballe and her family are used to bringing their own amenities, a tradition in itself that has grown so big, Uballe says her brothers now make fun of her for making camping too comfortable.

This year, they have a rented hand-washing station, an 18-person tent with an air-conditioning unit and fan — “the mansion,” Uballe quipped — and a portable kitchenette complete with a dishwashing sink and spice rack.

Despite her annoyance at the new regulations, Uballe said she expects her family members will have as good a time this year as in the past.

“It’s still the same,” she said. “We’re still going to stay up to 4 or 5 in the morning, laughing and joking around.”