Life slowly resuming in Bastrop County, its state park

October 11, 2011 8:29:16 PM PDT
For most of September, the world watched helplessly as Bastrop burned. Now that the fire is out, recovery is underway.

And there is hope the county and state park will once again be the tourist attractions they were before their natural beauty burned down.

It has been a month since Bastrop State Park has been open. The only people there for now are either fire crews or the state task force assessing the damage, looking at a landscape that, in places, is little more than charred tree trunks and blackened Earth. But park superintendent Todd McClanahan is doing his own assessment along what had been a hiking trail and road.

"All of these trees right here have the opportunity to fall along the roadway so we have to remove all the trees, at least as tall as these pine trees are back away from those areas," McClanahan said.

He would like to see the park reopen, perhaps in November if conditions can be made safe for the public to return.

"They want to come back and we need 'em to be quite honest. This drought, not just here at Bastrop State Park but across the state, has really hurt the revenue stream for state parks," McClanahan said.

The refectory, where weddings have been held for generations, wasn't damaged by the worst wildfire in Texas and neither were the cabins built during the Great Depression. But much of the their surroundings is barren and in a strange way that may be a draw for visitors. The park may get a lot of disaster tourism and it will generate money for restoration.

Many of the lost pines for which the park is known were destroyed. A few remain though, and when the drought ends, their seeds -- and those being cultivated by the state -- can be replanted. Time will take care of the rest; it's estimated it will be about 60 years for the park to resemble what it was prior to the fire.

"It's be in another person's lifeline/lifetime for Bastrop to come back the way perhaps we recall it. But it's not destroyed, it's damaged. It's not the same, it's different," Texas Parks and Wildlife Natural Resources Director David Reskind said.

But life is gradually returning. The golf course reopened in September and is back in use. And even in the burned forest, a tuft of grass is growing out of the ash. There's also the sound of birds. And eventually visitors will be back too.

And when they come...

"Pay attention to little things 'cause you never know that's the memories you're building; never know when those may change," McClanahan said.


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