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Chisos Basin Visitor Center Closes For Repairs

By Carlos Morales

The Chisos Basin Visitor Center at Big Bend National Park will be closed for up to four months beginning June 24, while the facility receives repairs staff say are the first renovations to the center since it opened more than 30 years ago.

The closure means the sweeping West Texas National Park, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, will have just one of its five full-service visitor centers open for the entire 801,163-acre park. Two of the visitor centers — Persimmon Gap and Rio Grande Village — are seasonal and only open from Nov. to April. And the Castolon facility, which is also seasonal, was destroyed during a recent wildfire.

During this time, the Panther Junction visitor center will be the only full-service location. Normally, during the summer months — which is the slower season for the West Texas Park — both Panther Junction and the Chisos Basin centers are the only two full-service sites open to visitors.

"We're lucky that it's at a fairly quite time of the year for us," said Tom VandenBerg, Big Bend National Park's Chief of Interpretation. "We wouldn't be able to do this if it was in the wintertime, spring break or something like that." '

The improvements will be funded through money collected from park entrance fees and camping fees.

While the Chisos center might not reopen until Nov., VandenBerg said repairs could be finished "much sooner than that."

Contractors are set to begin the repair work, which includes fixing the building’s walls, raising the ceiling, painting, installing carpeting and constructing a shade structure at the entrance.

"It needs some sprucing up," said VandenBerg.

The renovations will also make room for several new exhibits the park is putting together.

While the Chisos Basin visitor center is closed, all other facilities in that corner of the park — the lodge, the store restaurant, trails and campgrounds — remain open.

Park staff have set up a temporary information booth near the Chisos facility that will be open daily from 8:30 am to noon.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.