Texas State Parks to Close to Public Amid COVID-19 Pandemic




Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, April 7 issued orders to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to close all state parks and historic sites to further help distance Texans during the coronavirus crisis. All historic sites and state parks will close to the public starting at 5 p.m. and will only reopen at the direction of Abbott.

"Social distancing is our best tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives," Abbott said, in a news release. "The temporary closure of our state parks and historic sites will help us achieve this goal by preventing the gathering of large groups of people. I urge all Texans to continue to stay at home except for essential services as we respond to COVID-19. By following these social distance practices, we will overcome this challenge together."

Outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, biking, jogging, walking, hiking and wildlife viewing are essential activities for Texans, but TPWD said it will continue to do its part to actively encourage and promote these opportunities in ways that are safe and close to home.

“Given the myriad of challenges and heightened risks of operating the parks at this time, we believe this is the best course of action right now in order to meet the health and safety expectations the state has set out for the citizens of Texas,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD, in a release. “All state parks will remain temporarily closed until public health and safety conditions improve. During the closure, staff will continue to steward and care for the parks to ensure they can be immediately reopened to visitors at the appropriate time.”

TPWD officials said the state park system hosted nearly 740,000 day and overnight visitors throughout March. However, TPWD said it has "reached a point where public safety considerations of those in the parks, and in the surrounding communities, must take precedence over continued operations. Difficulty in ensuring compliance with social distancing, problems in maintaining adequate supplies and keeping park facilities sufficiently sanitized are only a few of the challenges encountered by state park staff."

The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center is working toward contacting customers with upcoming overnight reservations to reimburse stays booked through the reservation system. Group and facility reservations have been canceled until April 30, TPWD said. Canceled reservations will not be charged normal administrative fees.

Day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated to the Texas State Parks Pass, also will be refunded without penalty. The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center also will automatically process cancellations of overnight and day-use reservations. If a reservation is impacted by a facility or park closure, a Customer Service Center agent will contact the user, they do not need to contact TPWD, officials said.

Questions regarding state park reservations can be emailed to [email protected] and general park information can be found at TexasStateParks.org.

 




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