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May 7, 2010
Visitor-Pleasing Upgrades Accelerating at Huntsville State Park
HUNTSVILLE — For years it was a hard-luck entry in the Texas State Park system, but once it opened for good, Huntsville State Park quickly attained major attraction status. Originally constructed in the 1930s by African-American Company 1823 of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the park was still being developed in 1940 when a heavy flood collapsed a dam and flooded the park, causing extensive and costly damage. The park did not open until 1956.
That’s ancient history to the 177,000 visitors who enjoyed this large, richly-wooded park last year. Bigger crowds are anticipated in the future, from out-of-state overnight campers and day use guests from the sprawling Houston metropolitan area, just 70 miles away.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has responded with many recent updates to Huntsville State Park, and will continue the improvements this summer with several important upgrades. Thanks to bond funding authorized by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, TPWD will connect the park to the city of Huntsville’s water and wastewater systems, improving the park’s water quality. At the same time, work crews are adding two new camping area restrooms and upgrading two others — the park headquarters and nature center — to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"In addition to making the new restrooms ADA-compliant, we are adding more toilets and showers to accommodate the increased visitation from park users." says project manager Thea Luong. "The facilities will be larger and more accommodating."
Construction crews are steadily working their way through the park adding new restrooms and making other improvements.
"Two years ago we replaced restrooms at our swim beach and two campgrounds," says Park Superintendent Chris Holm. "Now, new restrooms are being added to two more camp loops."
The approximately $3 million in new and renovated restrooms and the new wastewater connections at Huntsville add another checkmark to a long list of major Texas State Parks rejuvenation projects underway this year, all aimed at keeping the parks fun, safe and customer friendly. Texas State Parks general obligation bonds have been sold to fund more than $44 million in repairs and renovations to park cabins, bathrooms, electrical and water systems, and other state park infrastructure. Along with fixing up more than 40 state parks, the bonds provide an additional $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas.
Along with fixing up more than 40 state parks, the bonds provide an additional $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas, taking the proud veteran of two World Wars out of the corrosive water of the Houston Ship Channel.
While the connection to Huntsville’s municipal water and wastewater will be a plus for visitors, they will probably never be aware of it.
"The majority of work on this will be outside the park," says project manager David Frank. "The work inside the park will not affect the park’s function, so there won’t be any adverse impact on visitation. In most cases, the people in the park will not know this is going on, because it will be in an area where they don’t go."
There are a lot of other places visitors do go in the 2,083-acre park because there is so much to do.
"We have most of the things people look for in outdoor recreation," Holm says. "Camping, boating — it’s a no-wake lake — fishing, hiking, picnicking, a big day use area with a swim beach. We rent canoes and paddle boats; pretty much whatever you want to do in a park."
The park, just seven miles from Huntsville, is bordered by Sam Houston National Forest on the north and east. It is dense with the thick piney woods of East Texas, with loblolly and shortleaf pines dominating. To better enjoy the trees, the park has 19 miles of hike and mountain bike trails.
Lake Raven — named for Texas hero Sam Houston’s Native American name, The Raven — offers 210 acres for boating, fishing or swimming (in a designated area). The park has small boat rentals and two fishing piers.
"The fishing is actually one of the better kept secrets of the state," Holm says. "They stocked some ShareLunker bass in here about three years ago. They’re getting fairly large and doing well. We’ve got crappie and catfish as well."
In a separately funded project, TPWD is currently upgrading the park’s 157 camping sites and 30 screen shelters. All sites that currently have electricity are upgrading to 30-amp and 50-amp pedestals — the increased power needed by most new RVs. Thirty water-only sites will have electricity added. Already 25 sites in the Raven Hill loop have been upgraded for electricity, water and sewer service.
Holm says the electrical upgrades will be a boon to the park and area by bringing in — and keeping longer — many more Winter Texans, whose big rigs require full hook ups. "We haven’t been able to get them without sewer and 50-amp service. They couldn’t run their air conditioner and microwave at the same time. Now they can run it all and with the sewer service they can stay at their site a full two weeks.
Huntsville State Park has overcome ancient bad luck by making itself into an increasingly appealing destination for locals and out-of-towners alike.
Watch the official Huntsville State Park video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39L4SwFU-XQ or more information, call the park at 936/295-5644, or visit the website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/huntsville.
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