Texas Parks & Wildlife Assessing Hurricane-Damaged Parks, Aiding Affected Employees
A month after Hurricane Ike roared ashore in Galveston, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working to reopen a handful of still-closed east and southeast Texas state parks, assisting displaced park employees and assessing the future of two coastal parks that suffered catastrophic damage.
The Sept. 13 hurricane destroyed Sea Rim State Park near Sabine Pass and Galveston Island State Park on the west side of Galveston Island. It also caused damage to dozens of other state parks in southeast and east Texas.
“Right now, we’re in the assessment phase, stepping back and trying to catch our breath,” said TPWD Deputy Executive Director Scott Boruff. “We’re looking aggressively at how we’re going to rebuild in light of funding issues and other limitations, and we’re trying to take care of our people impacted by the storm.”
The total cost of the cleanup and repairs is still unknown, Boruff said. For Galveston Island and Sea Rim, it will be some time before damage assessment is complete and decisions about the future of these parks are reached.
Park construction may ultimately reflect a different facility design that takes into consideration the impact of major storms, Boruff said.
The water well pump damaged by the storm has been replaced at Brazos Bend State Park, which re-opened Oct. 10, according to Justin Rhodes, regional state parks director for southeast Texas based in La Porte. Rhodes is also awaiting state approval of San Jacinto’s repaired water system, but is expected to have the battleground and Battleship Texas, which is moored there, open “within the next two weeks.”
Lake Livingston, Martin Dies Jr., and Village Creek state parks remain closed, but are expected to reopen by November, if not sooner. Timber salvage operations and other repairs are under way at those parks.
Mission Tejas State Park near Grapeland, where the headquarters building suffered fire damage due to a malfunctioning generator providing power after the hurricane, remains closed. It should be open by Nov. 1, Superintendent John Ferguson said.
The department is also working to aid park employees from sites affected by Ike. For employees whose work locations were destroyed or were otherwise displaced by the hurricane, TPWD is offering options to find jobs at other locations with the agency where possible, and to provide 90 days’ severance pay for workers who decide not to accept another position.
More than 60 employees affected by Ike are being offered the chance to apply for assistance from the TPWD Employee Hurricane Relief Fund said Al Bingham, TPWD’s director of Human Resources. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and other donors have so far donated more than $110,000 for the relief fund.
TPWD estimators are still assessing storm damage to affected state parks to try to come up with rough costs of what will be needed to get them back on line, said Scott Stover, interim director of the department’s infrastructure division.