AUSTIN- Several Texas State Parks construction projects are now complete thanks to a significant increase in dedicated funding through legislation passed by the 84th Texas Legislature.
House Bill 158 dedicated 94 percent of state sales taxes collected on sporting goods to TPWD. These funds have been primarily directed to much-needed state park capital repairs and improvements, addressing a backlog of deteriorating facility needs through water and wastewater projects, restroom replacements, electric utility modernization and other improvements.
Parks with projects completed this year include Bastrop State Park, Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway, Choke Canyon State Park, Fort Boggy State Park, Inks Lake State Park, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Possum Kingdom State Park, Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center and Tyler State Park.
One of the most recent projects completed is the first phase of one-of-a-kind cabins at Fort Boggy State Park located between Dallas and Houston on IH 45. The rustic wooden cabins located across from the park lake were built under a canopy of trees and can be accessed by a new 65-foot bridge. Each cabin comes with a microwave, refrigerator, an open deck, wood floors and ceiling fans. Since the cabins are completely in the shade of the canopy of trees, park visitors have the flexibility to use the cabin areas all year. Additionally, the space outside each cabin includes a picnic area with a table, lantern holder and a fire ring.
Elsewhere, in an important first step in the beachside redevelopment of Galveston Island State Park, a Houston-based design consultant team led by Sasaki Walker and Associates Landscape Architects and Planners has been officially selected to design the beachside enhancements. The design team began working on the project earlier this year with construction projected to be completed in 2020.
Proposed improvements to the park include 112 multiuse campsites, raised tent camping platforms, equestrian camping facilities, five large dune crossing boardwalks, restrooms, day use parking and picnic sites with shade structures for small and large groups. There will also be a concession facility for equipment rental. All improvements will be serviced with new electrical, water and wastewater utilities.
In the Panhandle, a collaborative project with the Texas Department of Transportation led to the construction of bridges to avoid flash flooding hazards and rebuilding of campsites at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
Six bridges have been built over water crossings on Palo Duro Canyon’s main roadway, increasing the safety of park visitors by providing access to higher ground areas of the park during flood events. Utilities and infrastructure have also been upgraded at the Juniper camping loop through this joint project. The Juniper camp loop underwent a rebuild of 20 campsites, an indoor group hall and bathrooms with showers.
Near Houston, Sheldon Lake State Park’s Environmental Learning Center has also undergone a facelift with several new commodities such as the creation of campsites, a greenhouse, boardwalks, a new entry road and sign and a bird watching platform.
One of the new features of the park are 14 new campsites created for use by the Texas Outdoor Family program, which introduces families to camping though guided weekend workshops.
In addition, more than 3,000 feet of new boardwalks traversing the restored prairie and wetland habitat demonstration sites were installed at Sheldon Lake. The new boardwalk waysides and interpretive exhibits will help park visitors learn about the unique ecology at the park as well as descriptions of wildlife they might encounter.
Habitat restoration work for Sheldon Lake has been ongoing since 2002. The new greenhouse located at the environmental learning center will be used by volunteers for growing plants for prairie restoration at the park. Prairie and wetland restoration at the east side of the West Canal was one of the main projects of this phase of restoration for the park.
One of the wetland areas now has a new bird watching platform installed for experienced and novice birders alike to view and document the unique species of birds found in that part of Texas.
Other completed projects this year include a reconstructed warehouse facility at Bastrop State Park that was damaged by wildfire; repairs to the trail way at the Clarity Tunnel at Caprock Canyons State Park; the replacement of water intake pumps at Choke Canyon State Park; electrical system grounding issues were assessed at Inks Lake State Park; electric utilities were upgraded at Possum Kingdom State Park; and electrical services were repaired at Tyler State Park. In the future, dedicated funding from the sporting goods sales tax will allow for continued maintenance and improvements of state parks as well as increased staffing, more visitor programs and new state parks.
For a complete list of projects in the planning, design or construction stage, visit the Brighter Future project page on the TPWD website.