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Texas Parks Reopen With Restrictions, Others Remain Closed

Carlos Morales
Marfa Public Radio
While the interior of Big Bend Ranch State Park will remain closed, the Hoodoos trail and other trails off the highway will be open to the public.

After nearly two weeks, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state's parks and historic sites to reopen to the public Monday with certain restrictions in place — groups larger than five are prohibited, and visitors must wear face coverings and maintain social distance.

Apart from the restrictions, all parks will be open for day use only, meaning no overnight camping is allowed. Visitors must make reservations in advance and pay park fees online.

“As we navigate through these challenging times, it is essential that outdoor experiences and opportunities are available for Texas families," said Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

By Monday, most state parks had reopened but a handful remained closed, including some in West Texas.

Officials at the 300,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park said the park wasn't ready to reopen to the public Monday, citing a " range of operational related issues." The park will now open April 23, but will enact several additional restrictions on top of the state's mandates.

Anyone looking to head to the far-flung state park will only have access to the trails and areas along the highway, the interior of the park will remain closed. The East and West Contrabando trailheads will be open for river put-ins.

Davis Mountains State Park has reopened to the public, but the Indian Lodge will stay closed. Monahans Sandhills State Park has also reopened to the public, but for West Texans looking to head to Monahans to take a couple of rides down the sand dunes, the park is not offering disc rentals at this time. Balmorhea State Park closed for repairs in 2019 and remains closed.

Other sites in the region remain closed as well, including Fort Leaton Historic Site in Presidio County and the Barton Warnock Visitor Center. Further West in El Paso, two popular state parks won't open — the Franklin Mountains State Park and the Wyler Aerial Tramway.

You can find a map of the state parks that are open and closed here, courtesy of TPWD.

Carlos Morales is Marfa Public Radio's News Director.