Bastrop State Park opens after fire, floods

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A helicopter drops water onto a blaze in Cedar Creek, Texas on September 5, 2011. Nearby Bastrop State Park recently reopened 80 percent of the 7,000 acre park, which was devestated by the wildfires last September.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

After a devastating fire and damaging floods, Bastrop State Park will reopen this weekend.

Beginning April 13 the public will have access to almost all of the amenities the park offered before the fire, said park site superintendent Roger Dolle.

“Firefighters were able to save almost all of our structures,” he said. “All of our cabins and all of the golf course were saved.”

Unfortunately, the area preserved from the fire was just a small part of the park’s total acreage, Dolle said.

“Ninety six percent of the park burned,” he said. “Of the 6,600 acres in the park, just a couple acres were saved.”

The park lost much of its dense forest of loblolly pine trees, known as the Lost Pines. Dolle said visitors should adjust their expectations.

“We had extreme fire behavior in some areas,” Dolle said. “Those areas look like a moonscape and there’s not much left in those areas at all.

Other areas were moderately burned or lightly burned, and a lot of vegetation is coming back at ground level with some oak and yaupon sprouting up a lot of green on the ground.”

The fire cleared the way for severe flooding conditions when the park received heavy winter rains, he said.

“Because the fire wiped out so much underbrush, the rain grabbed a lot of silt and ash with it and washed it away,” Dolle said. “Under normal conditions we could have a 2-3 inch rain and not suffer damage, but we had a 5-7 inch rain and the fire quadrupled the flooding effects.”

Katie Raney, the park’s volunteer coordinator, said volunteers will eventually be needed to plant about 200,000 loblolly pine seedlings, but erosion control is currently the top priority.

“We have scheduled volunteer workdays to help install erosion control materials, specifically, straw logs,” she said. “They soak up some of the runoff and also help keep the soil from sliding down the hill. We consider these workdays to be difficult and recommend them for ages 16 and up.”

Kilian Ashley, biology junior and backpacking enthusiast, said he has fond memories of the park and its forest from his childhood. The fire-ravaged landscape gives him a new reason to visit, he said.

“It’s cool camping out in that kind of area because you can see everything,” Ashley said. “That would be a little more attractive to me than camping in the middle of the forest.”

The park remains a marvel, Dolle said, though the experience is completely different.

“You’ll see the park in a whole new light,” he said. “It has a beauty all its own.”

To register for Bastrop State Park’s volunteer database contact volunteer coordinator Katie Raney at Katie.Raney@tpwd.state.tx.us.