Noteworthy Outdoors

Texas State Parks Open, Unaffected by Federal Shutdown

Texas State Parks Open, Unaffected by Federal Shutdown

AUSTIN–As the federal budget impasse persists well into the second week, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants the public to know that the welcome mat is still out at the more than 90 Texas state parks.

“Although our federal partners are experiencing temporary closure of their sites, which we hope will reopen soon, Texas state parks remain open and our staff is eager to welcome visitors to the great outdoors,” says Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks director. “Our parks expect to be especially busy since autumn is an extraordinary time to be outdoors.”

A number of TPWD offices and state parks have reported receiving calls since the partial federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 from people wanting to know if state parks are still open. Many of the customer inquiries are coming from people who had been camping or had reservations to camp at Big Bend National Park, in national forests or at lake parks operated in Texas by the U.S. Corps of Engineers that have closed their gates due to the federal shutdown.

“Here in Austin, the Customer Service Center has been receiving a number of calls from customers asking if our state parks are open, which we assure them that they are,” says TPWD’s Ron Hoelle, CSC park operations manager. “The weekly calls to the Big Bend Ranch State Park line are up roughly a third since the shutdown.”

Superintendent Barrett Durst reported Wednesday that the number of visits this month to Texas’ largest state park that lies just west of the national park has hit 350, which is just shy of the total for the entire month of October 2012 last year. He attributes the increase to Big Bend National Park’s closure.

On the Texas-Oklahoma border, Eisenhower State Park Superintendent Paul Kisel reports seeing considerable spillover from the more than 10 closed Corps parks surrounding Lake Texoma since Oct. 2 when campers had to vacate. He says the state park has been averaging 50 to 100 calls per day from people wanting to know if Eisenhower is still open.

Winter Texans expecting to make their usual sojourns to Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana national wildlife refuges in the Rio Grande Valley, which remain closed, might want to consider visiting the three state-run World Birding Center sites that offer world-class wildlife viewing opportunities: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley (Mission), Estero Llano Grande (Weslaco) and Resaca de la Palma (Brownsville) state parks.

State park reservations can be made by Internet, fax or phone. Park reservations can be made between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling (512) 389-8900. A tip: call volume tends to be heaviest early in the week, so customers might try calling Wednesday through Friday to reserve a campsite, cabin, screened shelter or group facility.

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