Texas Budgeting $5 Million for ’14 Park Repair

August 26, 2013 by · Comments Off on Texas Budgeting $5 Million for ’14 Park Repair 

Funding to keep Texas state parks open and provide grants for city and county parks, millions to aid the declining bobwhite quail and its grassland habitat, fisheries funding that benefits water resources, and dollars for conservation law enforcement are among the highlights of the 2014 budget approved Thursday (Aug. 22) by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Times Record News, Wichita Falls, reported.

“Barring any catastrophic event like a hurricane, extreme drought or a wildfire, the state budget adopted by lawmakers means that no state parks will close due to lack of funding in the next two years,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department executive director. “Further, the Legislature also funded many of the critical requests for the fisheries and wildlife side of our business.

“We appreciate very much this support from state elected leaders for parks and conservation.”

The department’s fiscal year 2014 operating and capital budget totals about $380 million, including about $272 million for salaries, related benefits and operating expenses, about $30 million for grants and close to $75 million for capital items such as construction and computers.

The 2014 budget is an increase from the 2013 budget of $357 million, but still below the $423 million for 2011. The state budget bill also increased the department’s employee count by 103 full-time equivalent positions, to 3,109 positions for 2014.

The budget reflects overall funding approved by legislators in the state General Appropriations Act for the 2014-2015 biennium, which authorized additional funding requests. Some of those, in two-year totals:

  • The department requested about $18.9 million for state park operations. The final state budget included close to $17.9 million.
  • The department requested $11.9 million for such capital budget priorities as replacement vehicles and computers. The state budget included $10.4 million.
  • The department requested $40 million for capital repairs and construction. The budget included $8 million for Fund 9/fisheries and wildlife facility capital construction and $11 million in bonds for repairs at existing facilities.
  • The budget provided the department’s entire request for $13 million for important fish and wildlife funding. This includes $4 million for quail habitat enhancement.
  • The budget also included all of TPWD’s request for $15.5 million for local park grants to cities and counties across Texas.
  • An additional provision provides $2 million over two years for an interagency contract with Texas A&M University to help a species in decline: bobwhite quail. This will develop educational resources and programs to reestablish quail populations based on research-proven best management practices, plus fund research efforts.

During the session, legislators also approved supplemental funding for the department using 2013 dollars. This includes $5 million for state park capital repairs, close to $4.9 million for Bastrop State Park wildfire recovery, and $889,000 in state park operating funding from motor vehicle registration opt-in donations approved in the previous legislative session.



‘Aggies’ Replant Scorched Texas State Park

February 18, 2013 by · Comments Off on ‘Aggies’ Replant Scorched Texas State Park 

Texas A & M students planted thousands of pine feelings over the weekend along Road1C (at top of map) in Bastrop State Park whose “Lost Pines” area was ravaged by a forest fire in 2011.

Fire-ravaged Bastrop State Park and its fabled Lost Pines area, located southeast of Austin, Texas, got a big boost this past weekend on a quest to regain its lost beauty and ecological vitality, thanks to hundreds of Texas A&M University students who came to plant pine seedlings — thousands of them — under the watchful eyes of Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) personnel.

“Bring back the Lost Pines” was the theme of the day, and the Aggies quickly showed they are willing to do their part, KBTX-TV, Bryan and College Station reported.

The student volunteers are being led by Aggie Replant, a Texas A&M environmental organization formed more than two decades ago to replace trees cut down when Aggie Bonfire was still conducted on campus. The recognized student organization has continued its founding mission, even though Bonfire is no longer a sanctioned university activity.

The first contingent of about 800 Aggie volunteers arrived in a four-bus caravan from College Station Saturday morning (Feb. 16), and another group made the trip on Sunday. Plans call for repeating the two-day program this coming weekend (Feb. 23-24).

At the conclusion of the four sessions, Aggie Replant leaders estimate the 6,600-acre park will have about 30,000 new drought-hardy loblolly pines in its horticultural inventory. The Aggies are planting the seedlings — which are about eight inches tall – along Park Road 1C in what is called the facility’s “historic scenic corridor.”

The Lost Pines area believed to have once been part of an unique pine-oak forest in Central Texas. The fully equipped cabins and group facility were constructed by the CCC in the 1930s using local sandstone so that the structures seem to be a natural part of the landscape.

Click here to read the entire story.


Texas A&M Students Help Replant Texas Park

February 12, 2013 by · Comments Off on Texas A&M Students Help Replant Texas Park 

Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas, decimated by a wildfire in 2011.

Flash back to Labor Day weekend in 2011 when high winds spawned by a tropical storm in Louisiana combined with epic drought conditions to fuel the most damaging wildfire in Texas history in and around the Central Texas community of Bastrop. Massive help poured in then for the people affected by the fire.

Now, fast forward to this weekend when hundreds of Texas A&M University students will partner with the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) to help the Lost Pines ecosystem recover by planting thousands of pine seedlings, reported.

The student aspect is being led by Aggie Replant, a student environmental organization.

Approximately 800 Texas A&M students will bus over to Bastrop State Park Saturday morning (Feb. 16) to start planting 30,000 seedlings as part of Replant’s community outreach efforts. The students will separate into four groups – one Saturday and another Sunday and repeat the process next weekend—in planting loblolly pine seedlings to replenish the trees lost in the fire.

The event kicks off at the picnic/swimming pool area of the park at 10 a.m. Saturday with brief remarks by representatives of the participating entities and invited dignitaries.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp was instrumental in bringing the key groups together to carry out the initiative, citing the benefits to the state and its citizens.

“This a grand example of working together for the common good – Aggies volunteering their weekend time to join teams from the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to restore this state treasure – the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park – for future generations,” Sharp notes. “For our Texas A&M University students, this event demonstrates our core value of selfless service, while also carrying out the land-grant mission of the Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System overall for the benefit of Texas and Texans.”

John Han, Aggie Replant director, agrees with Chancellor Sharp, saying, “I am excited for the opportunity that has been given to Texas A&M. We are taking the initiative to assist a community in need and that is truly exemplary. I think that this project does a good job of embodying Texas A&M and its core values.”

A scene from the fire in Bastrop State Park in 2011. Photo courtesy of KVUE-TV, Austin, Texas.

TFS foresters are helping facilitate the Aggie planting events and training the students on proper planting technique, working alongside Bastrop State Park rangers.

Since wildfire recovery replanting started Dec. 1, 214,089 seedlings have been planted at Bastrop State Park. The park has reopened since the fire, including all campgrounds, cabins and almost all trails. See the Bastrop State Park web page for complete visitor information and the latest on wildfire recovery.

Last fall, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Arbor Day Foundation launched the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees. Since then, more than $2 million in donations has been raised to aid Bastrop wildfire recovery. Tree plantings this season are being paid for by the Apache Corporation, Friends of the Lost Pines, Nobelity Project and many other donors.



Texas’s Bastrop State Park Restores Campgrounds

April 10, 2012 by · Comments Off on Texas’s Bastrop State Park Restores Campgrounds 

Downtown Austin, Texas, with smoke from the 2011 Bastrop fire on the horizon 50 miles away.

Bastrop State Park in Texas will be mostly open by the weekend after restoration efforts to rebuild after wildfires burned nearly all of the national landmark in 2011.

State officials said Monday (April 9) that 80 percent of the 7,000-acre park’s trails have been reopened. Reservations are being accepted for all campgrounds and the park’s 13 climate controlled cabins, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Parks officials have worked to remove hazardous trees from the area and restore campgrounds. The park near Austin will have an official grand reopening on Labor Day weekend in September, the one-year anniversary of the fire.



Texas Rebuilds Fire-Stricken Bastrop State Park

February 22, 2012 by · Comments Off on Texas Rebuilds Fire-Stricken Bastrop State Park 

Click here to watch a video, courtesy of KRIV-TV, Houston, Texas, about the rebuilding of Bastrop State Park, which was badly damaged by fire last fall and is now affected by heavy rainfall in that part of the Lone Star State. The news story follows.

Meteorologist John Dawson checks back with a favorite state park which was nearly destroyed from drought-fueled wildfires in September 2011. Over 95 percent of its 6,000 acres were scorched.

While most in Texas have rejoiced with the recent rains that we’ve seen, they’ve also created some setbacks for the park. The last week of January was too much for a park struggling to rebuild — over 4 inches of rain in one night.

“It was a lot that came in a short time period,” explains Bastrop State Park Manager Todd McClanahan. “However, with the little to no ground cover that we have left here in the park, it was probably equivalent to about a 10-inch rain. Therefore it contributed to some pretty significant flash flooding within the park. Down below the dam we actually had about a 30-foot section of road that washed out. It was in an area that we had a culvert. It gave way and the entire road is washed out.”

September and October stayed dry and gave the park time to start a good recovery after the devastating fires. Since then, the numbers have been well above average, hurting at times more than helping.

Rainfall totals at the park since the fire on Labor Day weekend 2011:

  • Sept: .32”
  • Oct: 1.94”
  • Nov: 3.56”
  • Dec: 4.32”
  • Jan: 5.46” (4.75” in one event – generated the flooding/erosion damage)
  • Feb: 4.55” so far!

“Typically, at some point after a drought you do get a heavy downpour and that usually fills things back up,” tells McClanahan. “It filled up the lake and the Houston Toad ponds but it also took a lot of valuable topsoil and did some significant erosion in our drainages, and did some pretty severe road damage as well.”

If all goes well, the park will be near full operations on Spring Break. There are many projects underway from many volunteer and state organizations. The park has been forced to cancel some reservations but hopes things will become more active as summer approaches.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” says McClanahan. “It’s been a long/rough/very frustrating few months. As much as we need the rain, it has really slowed progress on some projects while obviously creating new ones.”

So, currently there are some camping areas open, a few of the interior hiking trails, group barracks, playground and picnic area, and the golf course. The historic CCC cabins were not damaged by the fire but are closed for re-roofing, which is delayed from rain.

“We miss the campers,” shares McClanahan. “I miss the daily walkers. I miss hearing the sounds of kids running around the campgrounds and exploring on the hiking trails, that whole interaction of the general public in the parks. When we reach that plateau and get the campgrounds back open again after these two disasters, that will be a great day when that happens.”

Fire-Scorched Texas Park to Reopen Dec. 1

October 7, 2011 by · Comments Off on Fire-Scorched Texas Park to Reopen Dec. 1 

The new target date for reopening Bastrop State Park located 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas, has been pushed back to Dec. 1 due to scheduling delays for ongoing and start-up capital repair projects affecting the cabins, campground, park roads and refectory, The Memorial Examiner, Houston, reported.

The Central Reservation Center in Austin will continue to alert customers who had reservations for cabins in coming months that those reservations have been cancelled for now due to the reroofing project, which originally had been slated for completion by the end of December, but whose start has been delayed due to the fire and cleanup efforts. The reroofing project is now scheduled to begin later this year and wrap up by the end of February 2012.

“We understand that these projects will displace many park visitors,” says Todd McClanahan, superintendent of the Lost Pines Complex, which includes Bastrop and Buescher state parks, “however, they are sorely needed. We are fast-tracking the cabin reroofing. Park staff will continue with cleanup efforts from the devastating wildfire as well.”

Although the fire has scarred the landscape, McClanahan says campgrounds will be reopened by Dec. 1 despite the ongoing demolition and replacement of two restrooms. Alternative restrooms and showers will be made available. Campers will find resealed or new roads, parking areas and RV pads being paved by the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Bastrop will soon reopen and in many ways will be like a new park,” McClanahan adds. “Park management asks for its customers’ continued patience as we work to restore this national landmark.”

Bastrop State Parks 18-hole golf course, operated by the Lost Pines Golf Club, recently reopened to play and is open daily.

Park Road 1C that connects Bastrop State Park to Buescher State Park is currently closed due to wildfire damage and cleanup efforts. Buescher State Park, also located in the scenic Lost Pines, which was untouched by the wildfire that destroyed 34,000 acres, has cabins, screen shelters, campsites, 7.5 miles of hiking trails and a small lake for fishing and paddle sports.