Some overnight camping to be allowed in Texas state parks starting Monday

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Parks and Wildlife says they’ll allow limited overnight camping in all state parks starting Monday.

There’s a catch, however. The department isn’t taking new reservations yet, and will allow some existing reservations to allow for proper social distancing. Officials say they’ll let everyone know when new reservations can be made.

“After careful consideration, we are taking this additional step towards returning to normal operations in our parks by resuming some overnight camping at Texas State Parks,” said Carter Smith, TWPD executive director.

“As overnight campers are welcomed back to their favorite natural spaces, our team will continue maintaining the cleanliness of frequently used facilities such as campsites, cabins and restrooms to ensure that visitors, volunteers and staff can continue to enjoy Texas State Parks safely,” Smith said.

On Monday, Patti Sue Scott and her two sisters were ecstatic to be back at Inks Lake State Park for the first time since it closed in March. They were actually camping in the park when the call came from the Governor for state parks to close.

“We were here camping in March when the COVID-19 first started,” said Patti Sue Scott. “They closed the store down two days before we left and so we were here when they closed it down. This is their first day opening it up and now we are back!”

The general store at Inks Lake State Park (KXAN/Ben Friberg)

In recent days, Cory Evans, the park superintendent, has had his hands full.

A storm overnight Friday did some hefty damage to the main office and littered the park with tree limbs. But after some long hours, things are mostly back in order and he’s eagerly looking forward to the first overnight campers to show.

But as happy as he is, not everything in the park will be open. Not only are they still limiting the amount of people coming in to 25% capacity but the park common areas will be limited.

Patti and her sisters say they would love to see all the parks reopened 100%.

“Look how far and how vast it is,” she said, spreading her arms wide. “I mean it’s not any different going to H-E-B or Costco. This is less threatening. It’s just wonderful out here.”

The amount of existing reservations TPWD will honor depends on the individual occupancy of each park. Park-goers will still need to maintain six feet of social distance from others, and no groups larger than five, unless part of the same household, are allowed.

The department encourages people wear face coverings and bring hand sanitizer.

State parks are open for day-use as well, and people need to buy and print a day-use pass before they go to the park of choice.

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