College Students Help Replant Bastrop State Park

Flash back to Labor Day weekend in 2011 when high winds spawned by a tropical storm in Louisiana combined with epic drought conditions to fuel the most damaging wildfire in Texas history in and around the Central Texas community of Bastrop.

High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)
High school students planting trees at Bastrop State Park. (Source: statesman.com)

The wildfire that engulfed much of Bastrop County also consumed most of Bastrop State Park; however, Buescher State Park was not affected by the blaze.

The two adjoining parks are home to the famous “Lost Pines,” an isolated timbered region of loblolly pine and hardwoods. This 70-square-mile forest of loblolly pines is the state’s most westerly stand of these trees. These woods are called “lost” because they’re separated from the main mass of East Texas loblolly pines by about 100 miles.

The wildfire charred 34,000 acres and burned more than 1,500 homes, but Buescher State Park manager Cullen Sartor said his park dodged serious damage.

“The fire got within about two miles of our northern park boundary so it was pretty close,” Sartor said. “A little scary but we came out unscathed so that’s important.”

Buescher is only a sixth of the size of Bastrop State Park.

Massive help poured in then for the people affected by the fire.

Scene from the fire that devastated  Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)
Scene from the fire that devastated Bastrop State Park in 2011 (Source: KVUE-TV)

Now, fast forward to the February 16-17 weekend when hundreds of Texas A&M University students partnered with the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to help the Lost Pines ecosystem recover by planting thousands of pine seedlings, tamutimes.edu reported.

The student aspect is being led by Aggie Replant, a student environmental organization.

Approximately 800 Texas A&M students bussed to Bastrop State Park to start planting 30,000 seedlings as part of Replant’s community outreach efforts. The students separated into four groups—one Saturday and another Sunday and repeated the process following weekend—in planting loblolly pine seedlings to replenish the trees lost in the fire.

The event kicked off with brief remarks by representatives of the participating entities and invited dignitaries.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp was instrumental in bringing the key groups together to carry out the initiative, citing the benefits to the state and its citizens.

“This a grand example of working together for the common good—Aggies volunteering their weekend time to join teams from the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to restore this state treasure—the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park—for future generations,” Sharp notes.

“For our Texas A&M University students, this event demonstrates our core value of selfless service, while also carrying out the land-grant mission of the Forest Service and The Texas A&M University System overall for the benefit of Texas and Texans.”

John Han, Aggie Replant director, agrees with Chancellor Sharp, saying, “I am excited for the opportunity that has been given to Texas A&M. We are taking the initiative to assist a community in need and that is truly exemplary. I think that this project does a good job of embodying Texas A&M and its core values.”

TFS foresters are helping facilitate the Aggie planting events and training the students on proper planting technique, working alongside Bastrop State Park rangers.

Since wildfire recovery replanting started in December, 214,089 seedlings have been planted at Bastrop State Park. The park has reopened since the fire, including all campgrounds, cabins, and almost all trails.

See the Bastrop State Park web page for complete visitor information and the latest on wildfire recovery.

Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas
Pine seedling, the start of reforestation of Bastrop State Park in Texas

Last fall, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and Arbor Day Foundation launched the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign, a public-private partnership to raise money to plant more than 4 million trees. Since then, more than $2 million in donations has been raised to aid Bastrop wildfire recovery.

Tree plantings this season are being paid for by the Apache Corporation, Friends of the Lost Pines, Nobelity Project, and many other donors.

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Texas State Park Receives $10,000 from Coca-Cola

Bastrop State Parkwas awarded a $10,000 grant from Coca-Cola and will use the windfall to underwrite the continued building of new park trails.

Camping in the “lost pines” at Bastrop State Park prior to the fire. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fire-ravaged Texas State Park is received the grant in connection with Coca-Cola’s “America Is Your Park” campaign, in which parks nationwide competed to win the most votes for a top grant of $100,000 from Coca-Cola’s Live Positively initiative.

Bastrop State Park came in 12th with 661,565 votes. “America’s Favorite Park” is Pratt Park in Prattville, Alabama, with 28,734,539 votes.

Pratt Park receives a $100,000 grant from Coca-Cola’s Live Positively initiative.

“The tremendous support we received from people and companies for Bastrop State Park is testament to the special place this park holds in the minds and hearts of Texans,” said Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks director.

“We are very appreciative of Coca-Cola’s $10,000 donation that will allow us to hire America’s YouthWorks to complete new trails in the park.”

Bastrop and Buesher state parks are connected by Park Road 1. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since last year’s horrific Labor Day Weekend fire that hit 96 percent of the 6,500-acre state park, more than $200,000 in donations for Bastrop State Park recovery have come from a variety of sources.

The donations have helped Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) initiate a contract with American YouthWorks to assist with restoration efforts that include clearing downed trees and other debris, restoring park trails, and constructing hand-hewn pine log bridges.

Despite the destruction of much of its loblolly pine forests, Bastrop State Park is seeing the growth of some vegetation and the return of park customers who are coming to camp, rent a cabin, fish, play golf, and picnic. Visitors can stay at all four campgrounds and the 13 climate-controlled cabins, which are sporting new shingle roofs, and most of the park trails have been reopened.

Effects of 2011 Wildfire

In September 2011, Bastrop State Park and the surrounding loblolly pine forest were stricken by wildfire that affected 96 percent of the park. However, firefighters were able to save the historic cabins and facilities that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corpsin the 1930s.

The park is recovering from the fire, and most trails, campsites, and facilities have reopened to the public. All areas of the park are open except the following, which will remain closed until further notice:

  • Area east of Harmon Road including that section of the Lost Pines Hiking Trail
  • Gotier Trace and areas north and south of the road
  • Primitive Camping

Campaign to Replace 4 Million Burned Trees

State parks officials have kicked off a campaign to raise money to replace millions of the loblolly pine trees that were lost during the wildfires. The campaign is intended to replace 4 million trees on 16,000 acres. Foresters say it will be at least 30 years before the loblolly pine seedlings grow to resemble a forest.

Two million trees will be planted in the park and another two million outside the park. The more than $4 million fundraising effort will be led by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Rediscover Bastrop State Park

Bastrop and Buesher (pictured above) state parks are connected by Park Road 1. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rediscover Bastrop State Park on Saturday, September 1

FREE park entry from 1-4 p.m.

One year ago, wildfire swept through Bastrop State Park. Find out what the future of the pines looks like through guided hikes, exhibits, and activities for all ages.

Meet firefighters who helped defend the park during last September’s wildfire, and learn how you can help the forest recover. Scheduled activities include:

  • Guided hikes at 2:00, 2:30, and 3:00 p.m.
  • See artifacts recovered from the fire
  • Meet ambassador Houston toads
  • Make your own toad abode
  • Meet a firefighter
  • See fire engines and equipment
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Demonstrations and much more!

Details

Bastrop State Park

Elevation: 374-600 feet

Entrance fee: $4/person

Camping fees: Campsites with water, $12; campsites with water and electric, $20; campsites with electric, water, and sewer, $20

Address: 3005 Hwy 21 East, PO Box 518, Bastrop TX 78602 (Note: Address does not show up in most mapping software)

Directions: 1 mile east of Bastrop on Texas 21, also accessible from the east on Texas 71 or by way of Buescher State Park along Park Road 1

Contact: (512) 321-2101

Website: tpwd.state.tx.us

Worth Pondering…

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.

—Willa Cather

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Bastrop State Park Back in Full Swing Post-Wildfire

By this weekend, Bastrop State Park visitors will find most facilities and all but a fraction of the Lost Pines parkland open to the public only seven months after a destructive wildfire burned 95 percent of the national landmark.

Bastrop and Buesher state parks are connected by Park Road 1. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Bastrop and Buesher state parks are connected by Park Road 1. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reservations currently are being accepted for all four campgrounds and the 13 climate-controlled cabins, which are sporting new shingle roofs, and 80 percent of the park trails have been reopened, according to Roger Dolle, Bastrop State Park site superintendent.

“Thanks to the extraordinary help of park staff, a host of volunteers and the Texas Department of Transportation road crews, most of the park shows promising signs of a remarkable renaissance,” Dolle says in a state park news release.

“We invite the public to come camp in the cool springtime temperatures, play some golf and enjoy a lakeside picnic.”

Still closed are a small portion of Park Road 1C between Bastrop and Buescher state parks, the primitive campsites, the scout camping area, and the refectory. The refectory, however, is expected to reopen when the reroofing project wraps up at the end of April.

The reopening of the almost 7,000-acre park comes just prior to Bastrop State Park’s 75th anniversary, April 21. An official grand reopening and anniversary celebration will take place this coming Labor Day weekend, the one-year anniversary of the fire.

Tentative plans call for the state park’s swimming pool, which is managed by the YMCA, to open in May.

Camping at Bastrop State Park prior to the fire. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Bastrop State Park prior to the fire. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since the September wildfire, Bastrop State Park has been struggling to keep up with removal of hazardous trees, cope with hillside erosion caused by higher-than-normal rainfall, rehabilitate campgrounds, and come up with funds to address recovery and restoration efforts.

Donations from the public and private sectors are helping to address some of the financial shortfall.

At the recent Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting, it was announced that $134,600 in donations had been received recently to benefit the restoration of Bastrop State Park. Among other things, the money will be used to purchase a greenhouse and trail markers, and 20,000 pine seedlings for reforestation inside the park.

To reserve a cabin, refectory, or a campsite in the Piney Hill (full hookups), Copperas Creek (full hookups and sites with water and electricity), Deer Run (water only), or Creekside (water only) campgrounds, call the Customer Service Center in Austin at (512) 389-8900, or go online to the state park website (see below).

Details

Bastrop State Park

Elevation: 374-600 feet

Entrance fee: $4/person

Camping fees: Campsites with water, $12; campsites with water and electric, $20; campsites with electric, water, and sewer, $20

Address: 3005 Hwy 21 East, PO Box 518, Bastrop TX 78602 (Note: Address does not show up in most mapping software)

Directions: 1 mile east of Bastrop on Texas 21, also accessible from the east on Texas 71 or by way of Buescher State Park along Park Road 1

Contact: (512) 321-2101

Website: tpwd.state.tx.us

Enjoy a relaxing day at Buesher State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Enjoy a relaxing day at Buesher State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Related

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Texas is a state of the mind.

Texas is an obsession.

Above all,

Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.

—John Steinbeck

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Wildfires Rage across Texas

The Texas wildfire news continues to be horrific and heartbreaking. Bastrop State Park, known for its famous Lost Pines habitat, historic CCC structures, and the endangered Houston toad, is the latest state park to be struck by wildfire. Just 100 acres of the park’s 6,000-acreage have survived.

A relaxing day at Buesher State Park last winter. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearby Buescher State Park is also closed during the wildfire emergency but remains unharmed as we go to press.

This year, some of Texas’ biggest, hottest wildfires in memory have consumed over 3.6 million acres so far, causing devastating hardship and loss for humans and habitat.

Recovery will take a long time for people and habitat. Wild lands recovery depends on a lot of things, but most importantly rain.

Visiting a state park that has burned earlier this year offers a chance to observe wildfire recovery first hand, such as Possum Kingdom State Park where only 200 of the park’s 1500 lakeside acres were saved from wildfire. Over the next months, you can watch nature’s remarkable response begin to show.

Wildfires Consuming Bastrop State Park

In this week’s news release, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) incident commander Robert Crossman indicated that all but about 100 acres of the 6,000-acre park have been blackened by fire, but firefighters have so far been able to save most of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)-constructed structures on the park, with two possible exceptions—two CCC observation structures believed to have been damaged.

“We still have critical fire behavior threatening the CCC cabins,” Crossman said. He said firefighters, assisted by newly arrived federal firefighters, dealt with two flare-ups at the park overnight, one at midnight and the other at 5 a.m. today (Tuesday, September 6).

Bastrop State Park entrance burning. (Credit: Alan Fisher, © TPWD)

Firefighters are using heavy equipment, much of it provided by donors who responded to a TPWD call for assistance, and water trucks to build fire breaks and saturate the ground around the historic structures.

“The outpouring of support from these companies has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “Without hesitation, they sent over heavy equipment, machinery, and operators, and water tanks to aid our firefighters on site. These resources have been indispensible.”

TPWD has about 75-plus personnel responding to wildfires in the Bastrop area, including state park firefighters, parks police, and game wardens.

The fire has damaged the regional state park headquarters on State Highway 71, about four miles from the park. In addition, several TPWD employees lost their homes in Bastrop County. Some TPWD vehicles and other equipment were also destroyed.

State parks officials are still planning to make an all-out effort to save historic structures in the park, many of which were constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“Much of Bastrop State Park has been burned and our firefighters have once again shown their mettle with incredible effort to save the historic district of this National Historic Landmark,” said State Parks Director Brent Leisure, whose home and that of Buescher State Park superintendent Cullen Sartor were among those destroyed by the fire. “Countless homes have been saved. Despite the outstanding effort, this fire has outstripped our capabilities to protect all things.”

Bastrop fire. (Credit: Alan Fisher, © TPWD)

While Bastrop State Park and nearby Buescher State Park are closed, all other area parks remain open, including nearby Palmetto State Park and Monument Hill State Historic Site.

Park officials are also concerned about threats to the endangered Houston toad. The 124,000-acre Lost Pines area of Bastrop County, which includes the state park, is home to the largest known population of the small, reclusive amphibians in the U.S.

Leisure said the toad has already been stressed by the ongoing drought and loss of habitat caused by wildfires will likely impact the toad further.

21.5 Percent Cut in 2012 Budget

In other state park news, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently approved a 2012 budget that reflects a 21.5 percent cut in TPWD funding over the next two years. The agency is trying to limit impacts on the public involving state parks, fisheries, and wildlife, and leaders say there are ways the public can help.

The 2012 operating and capital budget approved August 25 by the commission totals $332.31 million, down from $423.2 million in 2011 and $468.8 million in 2010.

Related

Worth Pondering…
No matter how far we may wander, Texas lingers with us, coloring our perceptions of the world.

—Elmer Kelto

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Good News from Texas State Parks: Bastrop and Buescher

State parks are a big part of what makes Texas a great state to tour in your recreational vehicle. From the wetlands and beaches of the Gulf Coast to hill country swimming holes to the breathtaking beauty of Big Bend, state parks are a vital part of Texas. State parks are great places to hike, bike, camp, fish, boat, canoe, bird watch, photograph, and swim.

Bastrop State Park

Camping in the "lost pines" at Bastrop State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Bastrop State Park, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has budgeted over $3.3 million dollars to replace deteriorating galvanized plumbing in six of the historic cabins, replacement of electrical systems in the recreation hall and general improvements at the golf pro shop, all structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) more than 60 years ago.

Bastrop is one of 31 state parks in Texas that was constructed by the CCC and one of only five recognized as a National Historic Landmark.

Bastrop State Park is 5,926 total acres; approximately 30 miles southeast of Austin in Bastrop County. The park was acquired by deeds from the city of Bastrop and private owners from 1933 to 1935; the park opened in 1937.

The park is home to the famous “Lost Pines,” an isolated timbered region of loblolly pine and hardwoods. This 70-square-mile forest of loblolly pines is the state’s most westerly stand of these trees. These woods are called “lost” because they’re separated from the main mass of East Texas loblolly pines by about 100 miles.

Some portions of Bastrop State Park are currently closed for construction. Six of the park’s 13 rustic cabins and roughly 10 of the park’s 78 campsites are being retrofitted.

Additional construction to include re-paving of all roadways and re-roofing of all cabins and refectory will cause closures during 2011.

In addition, the park’s iconic dining hall, built by the CCC of native sandstone and timber, will undergo a modernization of its outdated electrical system.

Bastrop and Buesher state parks are connected by Park Road 1. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wireless internet access (Wi-Fi) is available is available in some areas of the park for visitors to use. Please check with the park for details.

Buescher State Park

Just down the road, Buescher State Park’s popular recreation hall, also built by the CCC, is undergoing $913,000 in renovations, including the stabilization of the structure and the expansion of the restrooms. It is currently closed for construction.

The four screen shelters of Buescher State Park are adjacent to the Recreation Hall and may be affected by the construction, causing closures to these facilities.

Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks

The Friends of the Lost Pines State Parks assists in the promotion, interpretation, and operation of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks. As a fund raising and service group, the goal of the friends is to help in the overall operation of the park through sponsoring events, helping fund projects and raising the awareness of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks as an asset to the community and surrounding areas.

Details

Bastrop State Park

 

Enjoy a relaxing day at Buesher State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elevation:374-600 feet

Entrance fee: $4/person

Camping fees: Campsites with water, $12; campsites with water and electric, $20; campsites with electric, water, and sewer, $20

Directions: 1 mile east of Bastrop on Texas 21, also accessible from the east on Texas 71 or by way of Buescher State Park along Park Road 1

Address: PO Box 518, Bastrop, TX 78602-0518
Contact: (512) 321-2101

Buescher State Parks

Elevation: 324 feet

Entrance fee: $4/person

Camping fees: Campsites with water, $12; campsites with water and electric, $15-17

Directions: 2 miles northwest of Smithville on State Highway 71 to FM 153, then north on 153 for .5 mile to enter Park Road 1

Address: PO Box 75, Smithville TX 78957-0075
Contact: (512) 237-2241

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
Texas is a state of the mind.

Texas is an obsession.

Above all,

Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.

—John Steinbeck

Read More