If your plan to ride out COVID-19 was to set up camp way out in the wilderness, well, you'll need to get a new plan (or just stay home).
At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, all Texas State Parks will be closed to the public effective at the close of business Tuesday, April 7. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) promises to continue to stay current with the latest public health recommendations and will announce when a definite reopening date has been determined.
"Given the myriad of challenges and heightened risks of operating the parks at this time, we believe this is the best course of action right now in order to meet the health and safety expectations the state has set out for the citizens of Texas," said Carter Smith, executive director of TPWD, in a release.
"All state parks will remain temporarily closed until public health and safety conditions improve. During the closure, staff will continue to steward and care for the parks to ensure they can be immediately reopened to visitors at the appropriate time."
This statewide closure comes after individual cities and counties already shut down their local park amenities (in Tarrant County there was no official order, though playgrounds and basketball courts are closed).
TPWD assures citizens that outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, biking, jogging, walking, hiking, wildlife viewing, "and the like are essential activities for Texas citizens," so it will "continue to do its part to actively encourage and promote these opportunities in ways that are safe and close to home."
Up until now, Texans have been thoroughly enjoying the option to escape their couches and explore the state parks. TPWD says that the state park system hosted nearly 740,000 day and overnight visitors throughout the month of March.
But despite the implementation of increasingly restrictive measures for visitors to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at parks, TPWD has reached a point where it's just not safe to have the parks open anymore.
Difficulty in ensuring compliance with social distancing, problems in maintaining adequate supplies, and keeping park facilities sufficiently sanitized are only a few of the challenges encountered by state park staff.
All group and facility reservations have been canceled until April 30. If you had overnight reservations scheduled, the customer service center will be in touch to arrange reimbursement.
Day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated to the Texas State Parks Pass, will also be refunded without penalties.
Questions regarding state park reservations can be emailed to email@example.com, and general park information can be found at TexasStateParks.org.