Texas state parks working to return to normal capacity

A family sets up camp at Palmetto State Park in this TPWD photo. Texas Parks and Wildlife is slowly opening up capacity at state parks after restrictions were put in place from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas State Parks have begun a strategic and thoughtful process of expanding capacity statewide, tracking Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest reopening order, and allowing more Texans the opportunity to visit their favorite parks. Masks are strongly encouraged for park visitors, especially when indoors or in areas where it is difficult to socially distance. Also, restrictions affecting group sizes have been lifted.

“We’re excited to welcome more visitors to our parks,” said Rodney Franklin, director of Texas State Parks. “We want Texans to know that the safety of our visitors and our park staff is our top priority as we increase visitor capacity. Prior to COVID-19, and throughout the last year, our parks have seen growing  visitation and our teams are working hard to accommodate those who want to get outside and experience the incredible natural and cultural resources our parks have to offer.”

While most parks will be able to expand capacity immediately, others may continue to have some capacity limits. A few parks are still recovering from Winter Storm Uri and are completing repairs or have other operational considerations. Capacity limits were already typical before the pandemic for some heavily-trafficked parks, to protect natural resources and to make the visitor experience safe and enjoyable.

Despite the increased availability, many state parks are still expected to reach capacity for both campers and day-use visitors on holidays and weekends. Consider visiting on a weekday as parks typically see smaller crowds than on Fridays and Saturdays. Many popular parks, especially those in Central Texas, are already booking up for Spring Break and the summer months.

“This time of COVID-19 has reinforced the power and criticality of providing quality, accessible, and affordable outdoor recreational opportunities for all Texans,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Getting outdoors is essential for people’s physical and mental health, and Texas State Parks play a critical role in meeting this need.”

Visitors can purchase day passes up to one month in advance, guaranteeing access to parks even during busy times. To purchase a day pass or to reserve a campsite, visit the State Parks Reservations page on the Texas State Parks website or call (512) 389-8900. Visitors can find recommendations for staying safe and healthy during their trip on the Keeping You Healthy page. TPWD recommends checking the state park map, social media pages or calling parks directly for updates on specific park operations or capacity.

Guests, including annual pass holders, who have reserved day passes or campsites but are unable to visit are encouraged to cancel their reservations, so others have an opportunity to visit the park.

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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