Woods, Waters and Wildlife: State Parks re-opened


Photo Caption

While photographing the entrance to McKinney Falls State Park south of Austin last week, cars continually drove up to the entrance booth, reflecting the public’s appreciation of the day-use only re-opened parks. See text for those parks still closed. Online pre-purchased entry permits, face masks, social distancing and group size restrictions are still in effect. 

Most State Parks opened last week for day use only. As encouraging and commendable as it is, does this mean the beginning of the end of COVID-19?

I don’t think so. And that scares me.

Maybe you’ve read about the 1900 Galveston hurricane. They were unprepared and inadequately warned. No television then, no NOAH Weather, no cell phones. Many lacked telephones of any kind. No one knew what was coming. Or what hit them.

The hurricane smashed into Galveston, rampaging the city. Then everything calmed down. Survivors went into the streets to survey the damage, not knowing that as the eye of a hurricane passes overhead, a false and short- lived reprieve occurs. Sometimes, the skies are said to actually clear. Then the back side of the 1900 storm hit. Before it was over, 6,000 people died. Many swept out to sea.

I hope that doesn’t happen with COVID-19. Sure, we’ll all want to celebrate, have mass hug-ins. But perhaps we should keep our guard up and wait until the eye of THIS storm passes completely and medical experts say its over. A recurrence could be more devastating than Galveston in 1900.

If you’re still reading, I’ll be more positive from here on.

Most are glad state parks open again. This time, Folks, please obey social distancing and group size restrictions that may still be in force. Ignoring (sneering at, in some cases) those regulations caused   parks and boat ramps to be closed to begin with.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. recognized the public’s need for open spaces to get away from home sheltering and take a walk in the woods. They kept parks open until ordered to close them. As of press time, 11 remain closed due to limited staffing, weather conditions and continuing construction projects.

Those state parks still closed are Balmorhea, Big Bend Ranch (opening now), Bonham, Caprock Canyons, Franklin Mountains, Hueco Tanks, Indian Lodge, Lake Casa Blanca, Longhorn Cavern, Mustang Island and Wyler Aerial Tramway.

Most parks I would visit right now are open, but some of my favorites are among the 11 listed above. And why are those closed ones my favorites? As Elizabeth Barrett Browning once answered, “Let me count the ways”.

Age five at Balmorhea, I clung to my father’s back as he swam across the pool -- one of the last good times before he went overseas. Picnicking on Mt. Franklin was our last time together. Later, the Army stationed ME at Hueco Tanks. Loved it! We’ve camped at Caprock Canyons, Big Bend Ranch (hunted there, too), Indian Lodge and showered naked outdoors at Mustang Island. Ah, the memories.

But there are more of my favorite parks open than closed. Far too many to count. So, get out and go park-hopping as soon as you can. They’re there for you and long overdue for your visit as you are for being outdoors.

Social distancing, face masks and advance online permit purchase and printing are required. Bring everything you need. See www.tpwd.texas.gov.


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