Maintaining a Safe Campfire

Every summer, many RVers and tent campers escape the hustle and bustle of city life by relaxing in the great outdoors.

campfire-safety-hdr-imgCampfires add ambience to a campsite but should be used with caution. It takes only one spark!

Following are several basic campfire safety rules to ensure the preservation of our natural resources for generations to come.

A campfire built without safe clearance or carelessly abandoned can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger other campers or the surrounding forest.

Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and fire bans in the area.

Building the Campfire

ALWAYS build your campfire downwind from your RV or tent in an area that is clear of vegetation.

Build the campfire in a level, open location where it will not spread. Make certain that the campfire is well away from logs, brush, dry grass, leaves, needles, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible material.

Campfire Safety Infographic FinalClear an area at least 10 feet in diameter. Scrape away grass, leaves, or needles down to soil or rock. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it.

NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire.

While the Campfire is Burning

NEVER leave a campfire unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times. Supervise children around the campfire at all times and NEVER allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over the fire.

Keep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter.

Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire.

Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials. Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile.

ALWAYS keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby.

Extinguished the fire completely before going to bed or leaving the camping area.

Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire. Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes.

CampfireSafetySecure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach.

Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.

The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.

A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only can still be 212 degrees F eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.

The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.

Completely Extinguish the Campfire

Fully extinguish the fire by pouring lots of water on the fire. Drown all embers, not just the red ones, continue to pour water until hissing sound stops.

After carefully putting the campfire out using water, stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shove and douse again with water.

As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers.

Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended!  Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.
Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended! Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.

Use the “drown, stir, and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it.

And one last thing, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!

Worth Pondering…

Only you can prevent wildfires.

—Smoky the Bear

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Campfire Safety

All it takes is one spark!

Campfire Safety Infographic FinalA campfire built without safe clearance or carelessly abandoned can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger other campers or the surrounding forest.

Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and fire bans in the area.

NEVER leave a campfire unattended. Extinguished the fire completely before leaving the camping area.

How to Build an Open Campfire

Build the campfire in a level, open location where it will not spread. Make certain that the campfire is well away from tents, RVs, logs, brush, dry grass, leaves, needles, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible material.

Clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter (local regulations may vary). Scrape away grass, leaves, or needles down to soil or rock. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it.

Crumple newspaper and pile split kindling in cleared area and light the fire. NEVER use gasoline or other flammable liquids as an aid to starting a campfire.

NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire.

While the Campfire is Burning

NEVER leave a campfire unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times. Supervise children around the campfire at all times and NEVER allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over the fire.

CampfireSafetyKeep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter.

Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire.

Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials. Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile.

ALWAYS keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby.

Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire. Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes.

Secure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach.

Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.

The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.

A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only can still be 212 degrees F eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.

The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.

How to Completely Extinguish an Open Campfire

After carefully putting the campfire out using water, stir the dampened coals and douse again with water.

Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended!  Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.
Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended! Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.

As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers.

Use the “drown, stir, and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it.

And finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.

Worth Pondering…

Only you can prevent wildfires.

—Smoky the Bear

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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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Campfire Safety Guidelines

All it takes is one spark for things to go wrong.

Campfire Safety. Never leave a campfire unattended! Forest fires often start from campfires that were not put out completely.

A carelessly abandoned campfire or a campfire built without safe clearance can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger anyone or the surrounding forest.

Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and follow local burning regulations. Keep current on fire bans in the area.

Enjoy a safe campfire by following these campfire safety tips:

  • NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire
  • Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials
  • Build the campfire where it will not spread; well away from tents, trailers, dry grass, leaves, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible
  • Build campfires in fire pits provided or on bare rock or sand, if no fire pit is provided
  • Maintain a 6 to 10 foot clearance around your campfire
  • Use crumpled paper and kindling to start a fire rather than flammable liquids
  • NEVER use gasoline as an aid to starting a campfire
  • Secure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach
  • Keep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in high and 3 feet in diameter
  • DO NOT burn garbage in your campfire
  • Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire
  • Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile
  • NEVER leave campfires unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times
  • Supervise children around campfires at all times and never allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over a campfire
  • Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire
  • Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby to douse the fire when you’re done
  • After carefully applying the water, stir the dampened coals and douse again with water
  • As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers

Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.

The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.

A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only was still 212 degrees eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.

The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.

A campfire put out with water is reduced to 122 degrees F within 10 minutes of applying the water and reduced to 50 degrees F after eight hours. The safest way to extinguish a campfire is with water.

The above information is based on safety guidelines provided by Windsor (Ontario) Fire & Rescue Service.

Related Stories

Worth Pondering…

How a Fire Burns
In order for fire to occur, four elements must be present:
Fuel (wood, paper, cloth, gas, oils, fiberglass)
Oxygen (air at between 17% and 19%)
Heat (brakes, engine compartment, exhaust system, transmission)
Chemical Chain Reaction (batteries, refrigerator)
If any one of these four components are missing, a fire cannot burn.

—Mac the Fire Guy

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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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Texas State Parks Donations Top $1 Million Mark

Since Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) launched a statewide appeal in early December for donations to aid a financially strapped Texas State Parks system, more than $1 million has been raised.

In an update provided to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission last week (January 26), TPWD staff reported that since the awareness campaign’s launch on December 6, donations to state parks have topped the $1 million mark, bolstered by three large contributions and smaller donations from more than 1,000 individuals.

“We’re off to a very promising start in what is just the first stage of what is an ongoing state park fundraising campaign,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “This shows that the people of Texas truly care about their state parks and want to see them stay open and accessible for all to enjoy.”

Two Texas-based nonprofit foundations accounted for the bulk of the more than $1 million in donations to the state parks general fund, with $500,000 coming from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation board of trustees and $250,000 from the T.L.L Temple Foundation.

Online donations from 980 donors through January 16 totaled $104,135, with the average donation being $106. Mail-in donations reached $58,000 and state park offices reported onsite donations approaching $12,000, more than twice the amount from the same period year ago.

In the last legislative session, the Texas Legislature authorized a budget strategy for Texas State Parks that included an additional $3 million in revenue from state park fees and $1.6 million from the optional vehicle registration donation program that officially took effect January 1, for a total of $4.6 million.

TPWD’s fiscal year 2012 budget included that contingent amount, but the revenues have not been realized due to the record drought, heat, and devastating wildfires that reduced park visitation.

According to the report to the commission, TPWD has just implemented a mechanism so that boaters can also make a donation when registering a boat. As of January 26, more than $69,000 has been donated through the motor vehicle registration option.

Let's Go RVing to Monahan Sandshills State Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, the commission learned that an e-mail appeal last week from TPWD’s executive director to almost 185,000 state park visitors generated in a 24-hour period another 576 individual donations totaling more than $32,000, bringing the state park donations total to more than $1 million.

The commission acknowledged a number of donations benefiting wildfire-damaged Bastrop State Park, including a $100,000 gift from Meadows Foundations, Inc. to replace park vehicles and capital equipment.

TPWD and the TPW Foundation continue to aggressively seek donations from individuals, foundations, non-profit organizations, and corporate partners who recognize the importance of Texas State Parks and to work with media and other partners to promote visitation to state parks and awareness of the fundraising effort. Revenue from park visitation funds about half of the state park system’s $69 million annual operating budget.

Park officials continue to stress three ways Texans can help keep state parks open:

  • Go to tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks to make a tax-deductible donation
  • Make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration (You also can make a $5 donation when you renew your boat registration)
  • Finally, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks often with family and friends

Unlike earlier in the year when record heat kept visitors inside, parks are now experiencing cooler weather, parks are greening up after recent rains, and most importantly for many overnight visitors, campfires are being allowed again in most state parks. Check each park’s web page online for the latest information.

To learn about the various Texas State Parks and their offerings, or to make online camping reservations, visit texasstateparks.org.

Or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Details

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

Let's Go RVing to Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley State Park. Pictured above is the Altamira oriole, A "Valley Specialty." © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Texas State Parks

At Texas State Parks, there’s something for just about everyone. From high desert mountain mesas with incredible sunsets to tall pine forests, gulf coast breezes and hill country canyons, you’ll find some of the most scenic views anywhere in the Southwest at one of more than 90 state parks across Texas.

And there’s so much to do and enjoy. Whether you like to hike, camp, fish, swim, canoe or just relax with family and friends around a peaceful campfire, you can find it here. Some parks even offer things like horseback riding, or features such as cabins, yurts and lodges for people who love the outdoors, but still want some overnight comforts of home.

Rediscover everything you love about Texas and visit a state park today.

Texas State Park Donations: tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks

Worth Pondering…
After 7 days of trial and error, God created Texas on the 8th day.

Read More

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Donates to Texas State Parks

The Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Foundation board of trustees yesterday (January 12) voted to donate $500,000 to Texas State Parks, which are facing a $4.6 million revenue shortfall caused by heat, drought, wildfires, and a drop in park visitation.

“Our hope is to encourage many other donors large and small to step up and help keep our Texas State Parks open,” said Kelly Thompson, TPW Foundation board chairman. “Our mission is to support the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and there has never been a greater need for private support of our parks. We will be aggressively seeking donations for state parks from private individuals, corporate partners, and other foundations to help reach the $4.6 million goal.”

Not counting yesterday’s foundation donation, more than $460,000 has been raised since Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials appealed for help December 6. That includes online and mailed donations and contributions through the new Texas motor vehicle opt-in donation program.

“We are deeply grateful to the foundation for today’s generous contribution, and to all those who have donated in recent weeks,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “We have a long way to go yet, but with this gift we have raised close to $1 million toward our $4.6 million goal, a remarkable achievement in a short time. This is yet another indication of how much Texans care about their state parks.”

Park officials continue to stress three ways Texans can help keep state parks open:

  1. Go to tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks to make a tax-deductible donation
  2. Make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration
  3. Finally, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks often with family and friends

Park leaders are continuing their call for people to visit state parks, touting cooler weather, parks greening after recent rains, and campfires now allowed again in almost every state park. Check each park’s web page online for the latest information.

McKinney Falls State Park is located 13 miles southeast of the State Capitol in Austin off US Highway 183. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To learn about the various Texas State Parks and their offerings, or to make online camping reservations, visit texasstateparks.org.

Or call state park information at 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Details

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)

The mission of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Website: tpwd.state.tx.us

Texas State Parks

At Texas State Parks, there’s something for just about everyone. From high desert mountain mesas with incredible sunsets to tall pine forests, gulf coast breezes and hill country canyons, you’ll find some of the most scenic views anywhere in the Southwest at one of more than 90 state parks across Texas.

And there’s so much to do and enjoy. Whether you like to hike, camp, fish, swim, canoe or just relax with family and friends around a peaceful campfire, you can find it here. Some parks even offer things like horseback riding, or features such as cabins, yurts and lodges for people who love the outdoors, but still want some overnight comforts of home.

Rediscover everything you love about Texas and visit a state park today.

Texas State Park Donations: tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks

Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Since 1991, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has served as the official non-profit funding partner for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. By bringing together companies, corporations, communities and individuals, the Foundation has successfully raised more than $70 million benefiting a wide variety of projects.

Address: 1901 N. Akard Street, Dallas, TX 75201

Phone: (214) 720-1478

Website: tpwf.org

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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Firefighters Fight Fire on Cumberland Island

Firefighters from three agencies worked with hand tools Thursday (January 5) to fight a slow-moving wilderness fire that has burned on Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Access to Cumberland Island is by a concession operated passenger ferry, The Cumberland Lady. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After burning for more than a day, the fire covered 45 acres—or less than 1/10th of a square mile.

That’s a tiny fraction of the land on Georgia’s largest barrier island, which covers 40,000 acres. It’s mostly wilderness but is also home to a few historic19th-century mansions built by wealthy industrialists such as Thomas Carnegie, who owned Cumberland Island before the federal government bought it in 1972.

The fire, near the Hickory Hill campground, was spotted at dawn Wednesday, said Maggie Tyler, chief interpretive ranger at the national park. Firefighters arriving on the scene found a small fire burning in grasses and trees near Willow Pond at the midpoint of the 16-mile-long barrier island, she said.

Investigators were still working Thursday to determine what caused the fire. Tyler said periodic fires are crucial to maintaining the island’s longleaf pine forests, though this particular blaze wasn’t planned.

Dungeness Ruins has a very long history to tell. The name came originally from the very first property, which was a hunting lodge named Dungeness, in the area, owned by James Oglethorpe in 1736. In 1803, it was replaced by a mansion built by Nathaniel Greene, which was later on used as a headquarters by the British. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tyler said two wilderness camp grounds nearest the fire had been closed. However, visitors were still being allowed to arrive by ferry and van tours along the island’s main road were continuing uninterrupted.

“It’s not a fast moving fire, so it’s kind of easy to keep it where it is,” Tyler said. “…On the main road or on the beach, you would see smoke but not see any flame.”

The fire posed no immediate threat to any of Cumberland Island’s historic structures. Tyler said the nearest, the Carnegie family’s Victorian mansion called Plum Orchard, was 2 ½ miles from the blaze, and on the opposite side of the island’s main road. The tiny First African Baptist Church, where John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette in 1996, is several miles farther north.

Areas closed to the public are east of Grand Avenue between Stafford Plantation Road north to Duck House Trail. Yankee Paradise Campground, Hickory Hill Campground, and connecting trails are inside the closure area.

A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fred Boyles, park superintendent for Cumberland Island, said in a statement that areas would remain closed to the public as long as the fire posed a potential threat. He urged anyone visiting the island to check with rangers for the latest closures affecting hiking trails and campgrounds.

Cumberland Island is accessible from the mainland only by boat. Tyler said the fire was not considered enough of a threat Thursday to justify bringing in firefighting bulldozers or to use helicopters to drop water on the blaze—both of which can be destructive to the island’s protected wilderness.

Cumberland Island gets about 43,500 visitors each year, with visitation limited to a maximum of 300 people per day.

Winter tends to be much slower. Tyler said only 35 people boarded the ferry to the island Thursday morning.

Details

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore, on the Georgia coast, includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is also home to one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States, one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast, and a herd of feral, free-ranging horses.

Reservations are required for both the ferry and camping. Visitors must check in 30 minutes before departure at the Cumberland Island Visitor Center or the reservation will be canceled.

Visitors are reminded these are feral horses and should be treated as wild animals. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The ferry is a walk on, passenger only ferry. All trips are round trip. No pets are allowed on the ferry.

Ferry Fees: $20; Senior, $18; Children under 12 years, $14

Entrance Fees: $4/person (valid for 7 days) or Golden Age/Golden Access and America the Beautiful–National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Mailing Address: 101 Wheeler Street, St. Marys, GA 31558

Visitor Information: (912) 882-4336 ext. 254

Website: nps.gov/cuis

Worth Pondering…

I do like to be beside the seaside.

—John A. Glover-Kind

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Drought Impacts Texas State Park Revenue

Lakes, rivers, stock ponds, and other waterways haven’t been the only things evaporating in the relentless, record-setting Texas heat. Revenue streams fueling state parks and funding fisheries and wildlife management programs have slowed significantly, as park visitation dropped and fishing and hunting license sales declined, the Houston Chronicle recently reported.

Park revenue, generated through entrance and use fees such as those charged for overnight camping, for the fiscal year that ended August 31 was about $1.2 million less than the previous year and already is about $2 million behind projections for the current fiscal year, said Gene McCarty, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) deputy executive director for operations.

Normally, state parks generate about $38 million a year in user-fee revenue.

Revenue from sales of hunting and fishing licenses for the current fiscal year is down almost 5 percent ($2.5 million) compared with the same period the previous year, reported the Houston Chronicle.

Fishing licenses, especially freshwater licenses, account for the largest drop in sales.

“Freshwater licenses are down 17-20 percent,” McCarty said. Freshwater license sales had been down as much as 30 percent just a couple of months ago.

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

“It’s pretty clear that the drop in freshwater licenses is directly tied to the drought,” McCarty said. Water levels in lakes across the state have dropped so low many boat ramps are unusable, making access a problem on many lakes. And those low water levels have exposed sand bars, rocks, stumps, and other potential obstructions that can make it dangerous for boaters trying to navigate the desiccated lakes.

The less-than-inviting boating conditions also have manifested themselves in a 2.5 percent decline in revenue from boat registrations.

Low water levels combined with the hot summer and destructive wildfires sent park visitation numbers through the floor.

“We really saw a drop-off in overnight stays,” McCarty said

Uncomfortably hot temperatures kept some campers away, and a ban on open fire preventing park users from enjoying campfires or using charcoal grills made parks less attractive.

Almost all of the most popular state parks are on rivers or reservoirs, and visitation at those sites dwindled as water levels fell.

“Parks with water-based recreation were most impacted,” McCarty said.

August visitation was particularly lower than normal. Garner State Park on the Frio River and Pedernales Falls State Park on the Pedernales River, two of the most popular parks in the state system, saw their August revenue drop by almost 40 percent. Guadalupe River State Park had a 60 percent decline in revenue compared with the previous August.

Almost 50 parks had August revenue declines of more than 20 percent, and overall revenue for the parks system dropped 24 percent.

Three popular state parks—Possum Kingdom, Davis Mountains, and Bastrop—were scorched by wildfires this past year. Those fires, which burned more than 8,500 acres of parkland, resulted in almost $350,000 in lost revenue and millions in damages.

Bastrop State Park suffered the biggest blow, with 96 percent of the park’s 6,000 acres incinerated by a fire that started September 4 and burned 33,500 acres in the Lost Pines region. Initial estimates set the cost of fire damage to the park and associated state park infrastructure at $8.5 million.

Guadalupe River State Park had a 60 percent decline in revenue compared with the previous August. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TPWD is working to reopen parts of Bastrop State Park in early December but must spend as much as $600,000 just to remove fire-killed trees that pose safety concerns along the park roads, McCarty said.

The loss of visitor-generated revenue and the expenses associated with wildfires adds to already considerable economic challenges facing the state park system. Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature reduced TPWD’s biennial budget by almost 21 percent (about $150 million), triggering staff reductions and cutbacks in services across all agency divisions, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The agency stands to lose even more if it doesn’t meet revenue projections set this past spring, before the drought and wildfires took a toll on park visitation. Under terms of the appropriations bill passed by the Legislature, if TPWD fails to meet its state park revenue goals, the agency could lose 60 park staffers and have to further reduce services at parks.

Bring On the Rain

“If we don’t get rain by spring, when people start thinking about camping and getting back into water-based recreation, things could get really bad,” McCarty said.

Worth Pondering…
I love Texas because Texas is future-oriented, because Texans think anything is possible. Texans think big.

—Phil Gramm

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Fire-Scorched Texas State Parks Update

The wildfire that engulfed much of Bastrop County also consumed most of Bastrop State Park, but Buescher State Park was not affected by the blaze and is back open and ready for visitors.

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

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.

Buescher State Park

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.”

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

Buescher is only a sixth of the size of Bastrop State Park, but there is still plenty for park visitors to do.

“If you want to experience a little bit of the lost pines like you could at Bastrop State Park, we have plenty of those here,” Sartor said. “We also have some pretty good fishing opportunities in the lake. The fisheries department came out and put about 900 pounds of catfish in, so I know they are pretty hungry right now.”

As the recovery from those devastating wildfires continues, Sartor hopes campers who would have gone to Bastrop State Park stay in the area.

“We’re getting a lot of folks that had reservations there,” Sartor said. “We’re still able to keep them in the area so that helps the local economy.”

Sartor hopes that as wildfire recovery continues, campers who would have gone to Bastrop State Park continue to stay in the area instead. He said the park has gotten a lot of campers that had reservations at Bastrop, reports KSAT.

Bastrop State Park

The new target date for reopening Bastrop State Park, has been pushed back to December 1 due to scheduling delays for ongoing and start-up capital repair projects affecting the cabins, campground, park roads, and refectory, according to a recent state park news release.

The Central Reservation Center in Austin will continue to alert customers who had reservations for cabins in coming months that those reservations have been canceled for now due to the reroofing project, which originally had been slated for completion by the end of December, but whose start has been delayed due to the fire and cleanup efforts. The reroofing project is now scheduled to begin later this year and wrap up by the end of February 2012.

“We understand that these projects will displace many park visitors,” says Todd McClanahan, superintendent of the Lost Pines Complex, which includes Bastrop and Buescher state parks, “however, they are sorely needed. We are fast-tracking the cabin reroofing. Park staff will continue with cleanup efforts from the devastating wildfire as well.”

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

Although the fire has scarred the landscape, McClanahan says campgrounds will be reopened by December 1 despite the ongoing demolition and replacement of two restrooms. Alternative restrooms and showers will be made available. Campers will find resealed or new roads, parking areas, and RV pads being paved by the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Bastrop will soon reopen and in many ways will be like a new park,” McClanahan adds. “Park management asks for its customers’ continued patience as we work to restore this national landmark.”

Bastrop State Parks 18-hole golf course, operated by the Lost Pines Golf Club, recently reopened to play and is open daily.

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Texas Spoken Friendly

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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