Parts of Bastrop State Park reopen months after wildfire

April 12, 2012 8:18:11 PM PDT
Seven months after the devastating wildfires ravaged our state, there's a major sign of recovery. Bastrop State Park reopened 80 percent of its trails Thursday after flames devastated the grounds.

Almost all of the park's 6,600 acres were scortched, but thanks to generous donations and dedicated volunteers, park visitors will see new life.

While many of the structures survived the wildfire, there was still a significant amount of damage and many trees had to be cut down. But months later, there are new signs of life returning.

Like cleaning the carpets for the guests to return, dirt is swept off the roadways at the 6,500-acre park.

Under the canopy of charred trees, workers use hammers, drills and large machinery to repair a road leading to one of the campsites.

"When the fire came through, it was just like the last nail in the coffin for many of these trees," said Roger Dolle, the site manager for Bastrop State Park.

The September wildfires burned through 96 percent of the park. At the time, the behavior of the flames puzzled even the most experienced in the firefighting business.

"Some of our most intense fire activity was between midnight and 5am," Dolle said. "It did not get the rule book."

Restoring the park has come at a price. Donations and volunteers like Matthew Tibbs have helped account for one-fourth the budget shortfall.

"As you can see, it's had a lot of damage; it still has a unique beauty about it and it's interesting to see the new forest growth," Tibbs said.

"There is no way we could have gotten to this point with a lot of the projects that we are doing," Dolle said.

Then hard rains in January caused more damage because of the lack of vegetation to absorb the water.

"Since there was no vegetation after the fire, it kept blowing and going," Dolle said.

Many improvements can be seen. Some are more subtle as moderatly burned areas are starting to see regrowth.

"We have a lot of native species coming back and we have a lot of invasive species that are starting to rear their ugly heads," Dolle said.

Come Friday morning, the west side of the park will be open for business from cabins to camping and hiking trails.

"We're not at the end of the road, we're not even close," Dolle said.

And while they still search for funding to finish the job, there is pride in this progress.

"Reinvigorate this town and this community that needs our support and our helping hands," Tibbs asid.

Many of the cabins and campgrounds are booked through the end of May.

There are still many unfinished projects, so if you'd like to help out and donate, visit the state park's website.

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