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Texas state parks can open fully but reservations still recommended

Texas state parks can now reopen at 100 percent capacity, but popular ones, such as Pedernales Falls State Park, still fill up quickly during peak times. Reservations are encouraged. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell

After several months of operating at reduced capacity, state parks in Texas are now allowed to fully open after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted COVID-19 restrictions on March 10. However, some parks are gradually building up to that.

“We’re excited to welcome more visitors to our parks,” said Texas State Parks Director Rodney Franklin. “We want Texans to know that the safety of our visitors and our park staff is our top priority as we increase visitor capacity.”

On April 7, 2020, Abbott closed state parks in an effort to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. He reopened them a few weeks later with restrictions, including limited capacity and mandatory face coverings. Parks have most recently been operating at 75 percent capacity.

With capacity and mask restrictions rescinded as of March 10, some parks fully reopened immediately while others are taking a slower approach. Parks officials said some are still recovering from the February winter storm.

Even if parks are operating at 100 percent capacity, reservations are still recommended. Popular parks, such as Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Pedernales Falls State Park, and Inks Lake State Park, quickly reach visitor limits, especially during peak times like weekends, holidays, and Spring Break.

Visitors can make overnight and day-use reservations through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department online reservation system.

During the ongoing pandemic, park officials noted seeing many first-time visitors as people sought a safe way to get outside and enjoy nature.

“Prior to COVID-19, and throughout the last year, our parks have seen growing visitation and our teams are working hard to accommodate those who want to get outside and experience the incredible natural and cultural resources our parks offer,” said Franklin, the Texas State Parks director.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith echoed that sentiment.

“This time of COVID-19 has reinforced the power and criticality of providing quality, accessible, and affordable outdoor recreational opportunities for all Texans,” he said. “Getting outdoors is essential for people’s physical and mental health, and Texas State Parks play a critical role in meeting this need.”

Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website for more information and follow individual state park social media outlets for updates on services and capacities.

editor@thepicayune.com

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