State is shutting down all parks

A woman rides her bicycle through a trail at Resaca de la Palma State Park on Wednesday morning. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

HARLINGEN — Texas state parks, among the last public venues remaining open during the coronavirus pandemic, will shut down effective Wednesday, officials say.

At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas State Parks will be shuttered at the close of business Tuesday “in order to maintain the safest environment for visitors, volunteers and staff,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a statement.

Here in the Valley, that means Resaca de la Palma State Park in Brownsville, Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in Mission and Falcon State Park will all go dark.

No reopening date has been set, TPWD officials said.

“Given the myriad of challenges and heightened risks of operating the parks at this time, we believe this is the best course of action right now in order to meet the health and safety expectations the state has set out for the citizens of Texas,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director. “All state parks will remain temporarily closed until public health and safety conditions improve. During the closure, staff will continue to steward and care for the parks to ensure they can be immediately reopened to visitors at the appropriate time.”

Despite the coronavirus lockdowns, or maybe because of them, state parks were proving to be a refuge for many Texans with 740,000 of them visiting state parks as day and overnight visitors in March.

“TPWD has reached a point where public safety considerations of those in the parks, and in the surrounding communities, must take precedence over continued operations,” the agency said in a statement.

“Difficulty in ensuring compliance with social distancing, problems in maintaining adequate supplies and keeping park facilities sufficiently sanitized are only a few of the challenges encountered by state park staff,” the press release read.

The parks agency is attempting to contact people who have made overnight reservations and already paid or placed a deposit on them for reimbursement.

Group and facility reservations have been cancelled until April 30. Cancelled reservations will not be charged normal administrative fees.

Day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated with the Texas State Parks Pass, will also be refunded without penalties.

Valley state parks

Resaca de la Palma SP, Brownsville

Estero Llano Grande SP, Weslaco

Bentsen-RGV SP, Mission

Falcon SP, Falcon Heights