Lake Texana park breaks from state management
Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 10, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.
Updated July 11, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.
LAKE TEXANA STATE PARK
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has operated the 575-acre park under a 50-year lease, executed in 1977 with the Bureau of Reclamation/LNRA.
The lease was amended in 2003 with a restated lease agreement with LNRA.
Lake Texana opened to the public in 1981.
The park provides public access to 10,000-acre Lake Texana.
More than 40,000 visitors attend the park each year.
EDNA - Holding nine playing cards rubberbanded to a square piece of wood, Bill and Dolores Baldwin lean against a Lake Texana State Park picnic table to examine their hands of golf.
"She'll usually win this game. She beats me about 90 percent of the time at cards," Bill, 72, said.
The rubberbands hold the cards in place while a light drizzle and soft wind blow through the air.
Behind the couple sits a motor home with attached trailer to transport their fishing boat, Moped, and two bicycles, one with a wire basket on the back for their black and white papillon, Bear, to hitch a ride.
"We love coming out here. I've been coming about 15 or 20 years," said Bill, a retired machinest from Bay Cliff. "This is my favorite park."
The couple set up camp Monday at the park, planning to stay about three days. But they almost didn't come.
"When I called to make the reservation, they said the park would be closed after July 13," Dolores, 74, said. "But then they said we could come Monday and Tuesday."
In May, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced in a news release it would no longer be able to lease the park from the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority in Edna, citing funding shortfalls. The authority owns the land where the 575-acre state park sits. It has been open to the public since 1981 and provides more access to the 10,000-acre Lake Texana, used for recreational activities for an average of 40,000 visitors each year.
Texas parks suffered record heat, droughts and wildfires last year, which resulted in overall park visitation reduction and revenue losses.
Patrick Brzozowski, the authority's general manager, said they have agreed to take over the park, which is expected to transfer by Sept. 1. Lake Texana State Park will become Texana Park at the Brackenridge Recreation Complex, he said.
"We're excited now that it's upon us, and we're looking forward to the challenge," Brzozowski said.
Rumors have circulated for more than a year that the park may detach from state management. Brozozowski said that in an ideal situation, he would prefer for the park to remain a state park.
"I would have rather have a state park there for a lot of reasons. It's good to have a state park in your community, for one," he said. "It's not that they don't want to be there, economically they can't do it."
Richard Johnson, a Lake Texana maintenance specialist, said employees of the park have been searching for new jobs since the state announced the transfer in May. Some are leaving for other jobs, while others are hoping to be rehired with Lavaca-Navidad River Authority.
"They're trying to let us have first choice on the jobs, which is nice," Johnson said. "I interviewed this morning. All this week, they're interviewing us."
Johnson said he hoped to retire as a state park employee, beginning the job 11 years ago.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "I think (LNRA) will be a good manager over here."
Brozozwski said the LNRA is discussing the changes to the park, including a new fee schedule and amenities upgrades.
"There will be some changes. The plan is to do a number of upgrades, beautification projects, and we plan to develop full service sites. There may be differing operating rules," he said. "The fees are going to be cheaper. Instead of $3 per person, we're going to charge $3 per car. For a family of two, you get a 50 percent discount."
With plans unknown, the Baldwins are hopeful the park won't make too many changes.
"It really shocked me when I found out. But you know, if he likes it, we'll probably come back," Dolores said.