After flooding left more than 50 Texas state parks drenched over the Memorial Day weekend, communities and park staff statewide have banded together to clean up, restore, and reopen most of the damaged sites. Thanks to their efforts, only four parks remain closed; Cedar Hill State Park, Lake Somerville State Park (all units), Lake Whitney State Park, and Ray Roberts Lake State Park (all units).
“Our first and greatest priority is to ensure that parks are safe for public use before re-opening,” said Brent Leisure, Director of the State Parks Division at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Beyond that, we are currently assessing damages that require capital repair. We intend to move on those repairs as quickly as possible and get Texans back into those parks, which they obviously enjoy so much.”
Currently, state park recovery projects are estimated to cost about $16 million dollars.
To date, the most costly known infrastructure damage was sustained at Bastrop State Park with the loss of the park lake dam, said Jessica Davisson, Director of the Infrastructure Division at TPWD. A section of Park Road 1A was also washed away when the dam breached and preliminary estimates for reconstruction at Bastrop are in excess of $6 million.
“Not all sites have been assessed for infrastructure damage yet; several parks remain closed due to standing water and inaccessibility,” said Davisson. “Park staff continues to diligently respond to debris and silt removal, facility and site cleanup, and minor repairs.”
Recovery would not have occurred as quickly as it has at many locations without the help of more than 300 volunteers who dedicated about 6,500 hours towards cleanup efforts. Others even loaned equipment to park staff to help with debris. Among the many contributions received by parks around the state, include:
The Friends of Lost Pines State Parks trail crew, along with the Bridge Maniacs of the Lost Pines Master Naturalist chapter, dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to perform debris removal, erosion control, trail stabilization, bridge repair, and rerouting to damaged trails at Bastrop State Park.
Group 1 Automotive of Stafford donated $10,000 to the Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization toward the purchase of trail surface materials. BBSPVO contributed an additional $5,000 in trail surface material, and volunteered time to post-flood recovery projects, such as clearing debris from developed recreation sites and brushing and clearing trails.
Lake Whitney State Park has had volunteers show up daily, all dedicated to reopen “their” park. Local farmers and ranchers have offered to bring their tractors to help with park cleanup projects. The number of volunteers willing to help the park has increased weekly.
Mother Neff State Park has hosted clean-up events, which have made a tremendous impact toward restoring the park. Two of three rental facilities impacted have been cleaned and are almost ready for rental. Small debris was also picked up at non-flooded portions, so now parks can mow again. A site with significant silt damage was cleared of camping equipment, just in time for their next clean-up event. Volunteers brought power washers, tractors, and generators to help with clean-up efforts.
Volunteer Flood Day events at Ray Roberts Lake State Park have helped the park clean and remove debris at Sanger and Pond Creek Satellite Park Units. The Greenbelt Unit also had a volunteer event for clean-up on the Multi-use trail. More than 90 volunteers dedicated an unbelievable 1,180 hours towards restoration efforts.
Six volunteers from San Angelo State Park’s friends group dedicated more than 60 hours to clean up the Bald Eagle and North Concho camping loops. One volunteer used his skid loader to push brush piles in the Dry Creek campground for close to 40 hours. The Grape Creek community also came together to remove wood from the bridge over the North Concho River.
At Stephen F. Austin State Park, Trails Over Texas rebuilt and moved back the Brazos River overlook stations, which were completely compromised by flood waters.
Volunteers from the Friends of Blanco State Park with the support of staff and equipment from Bamberger Ranch, Texas A&M Forest Service, Triple W Hauling, Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, and CL Browning Ranch, removed tons of debris and helped get the park ready for its recent partial reopening.
For more information about the current status of parks, visit http://texasstateparks.org