Fire-ravaged Bastrop State Park is in second place in an online competition naming “America’s Favorite Park.” At stake? First place is a $100,000 grant, second place nets $50,000 and third place gets $25,000.
The park was devastated last year by the Labor Day wildfires which burned 96 percent of the historic 6,500 acre park. Texas Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Rob McCorkle says the grant money would allow the park to extend a contract with an American YouthWorks team that’s been rebuilding trails and bridges.
McCorkle says despite the damage done by the fires, the park is making a comeback. “Everything is pretty much up and running – it’s just the landscaping that took such a serious hit from the fires.” The park largely reopened in April.
The restoration efforts come at a trying time for Parks and Wildlife. The agency saw a 21.5 percent cut to its budget last August, being approved for $332.3 million – some $90 million less than its previous $423.2 million budget.
McCorkle says $4.6 million is currently needed to cover basic operating costs for state parks like Bastrop. He says a large part of that deficit results from the wildfires, and the drought that took place last year. “That really hit us in the pocket book because people weren’t going to the parks.”
You can cast your vote online and, if you check in at your favorite park on foursquare, your park receives an additional 100 votes. On Tuesday, the Bastrop State Park was about 3 million votes behind Swift-Cantrell Park in Georgia. Voting ends July 15.