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Parks and Wildlife Commissioners Approve 50-Acre Expansion Plan for Balmorhea State Park

The spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park in West Texas. (Travis Bubenik / Marfa Public Radio)

Updated Thursday, January 21 - 1:50 PM

Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners have unanimously approved a planned 50-acre expansion at Balmorhea State Park. The vote came at a Thursday morning meeting.

Under the proposal, the popular spring-fed swimming hole in West Texas would buy 50 acres of land from the Reeves County Water Improvement District, the local irrigation district.

The new acreage would more than double the size of the park. Cory Kuhlmann, a land conservation manager with parks and wildlife, said at Thursday's meeting it could really help - the park's often overcrowded in the summers with more and more people flocking to this rare desert swimming spot.

"We're thinking in the future about going to some kind of system where we have to alternate use for the pool, because you can only let so many people in the pool at the same time," he said. "And if we have to turn people away or they have to wait, there's really no place for them to go."

Kulhmann said the extra space could give people a place to hang out even if the pool is full.

Balmorhea State Park Superintendent Karl Coughlin says any opportunity to grow the park is "welcome with open arms," but he is aware the expansion could entice even more people to come to the park.

"Of course we always have to worry about the number of visitors we get at the park, because we have to balance the visitation with maintaining our resources," he said.

"Right now we don't have any firm plans with what we're going to do with that land. I'm assuming that eventually we're going to sit down and have those discussions, but until it becomes official on our end, those are kind of just hopes and dreams."

There's other work to be done before the Balmorhea park expansion becomes a reality. The purchase of the 50 acres from the irrigation district depends on the park's ability to acquire a separate, small tract of private land. That part of the deal is still in the works.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.