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Out with the Old, In with the New Shade Shelters at Goose Island State Park
ROCKPORT — One of Texas’ earliest state parks has stood up to the wind, surf and sun for almost 75 years, but now and then the elements start gaining on it. This fall Texas Parks and Wildlife will acknowledge Mother Nature’s constant challenge at Goose Island State Park by removing 45 concrete shade shelters worn down from more than 35 years of harsh weather.
Thanks to bond funding authorized by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, TPWD will then replace the old shelters with 45 new shelters, ready once more to take whatever the Gulf of Mexico — and thousands of visitors annually — can throw at them.
"The new shelters will be very similar structurally, but they will be more modern architecturally," says project manager Jessica Davisson.
The installation of the new shade shelters at Goose Island is another item on 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.
No one knows better than Goose Island Superintendent Stormy Reeves how long and well the old shade shelters served and how much the weather abused them. The first 25 shelters were installed in1969-1970. Reeves came to the park in 1973, in time to see the then final 20 shelters go up in 1973-1974.
"These are pre-cast concrete structures," Reeves says. "The structural steel in them has been rusting for years and that caused some structural failure due to sloughing off of the concrete."
The old shelters have been popular so the new versions will be similar but improved. Designs show a concrete base, two opposed but slightly ‘V-ed’ (rather than parallel) concrete walls with a shoreline relief design and a sloping concrete roof. Each shelter will have water and electricity, and a wooden table that can be removed if a hurricane threatens.
Goose Island State Park is located, mostly, at the tip of the landmass surrounded by St. Charles, Aransas and Copano bays. A short distance across St. Charles Bay is Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
"Eco-tourism in Texas started here in the Rockport area because of the whooping crane," Reeves says. "We have whooping cranes in and around the park generally from November through April. This is really a great, unique location. We have had tremendous birding opportunities with our spring fallouts. There are over 325 bird species on our park check list."
Because the park has a seawall but no beach or designated swimming area, it’s not a prime spot for college students. It primarily attracts older couples and young families. Many come to fish. The park features a 1,620-foot, lighted fishing pier, a boat ramp, a bait stand and fish-cleaning tables.
"Twenty-five percent of the sport fishing on the Texas coast happens here in the Aransas Bay system," Reeves says. "People fish off the shoreline or use boats."
Goose Island is located 10 miles north of Rockport and 40 miles north of Corpus Christi. It totals 321 acres, about 150 acres on Goose Island itself, where the shade shelters are located. Another 90 acres, on the mainland, form the section called the Wooded Area, which has 57 electric and water campsites and 25 non-electric sites.
Another 60 acres is right of way on Park Road 13, which goes about 1 ½ miles to one of the park’s premiere features, The Big Tree.
"The Big Tree is the state champion coastal live oak tree" says Reeves proudly. "It was named that in 1969 by the Texas Forest Service. It’s estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. It’s our icon."
Like most of Texas earliest state parks, Goose Island was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The CCC-built Recreation Hall is still here.
"They constructed that with bricks made from oyster shells," Reeves says. "They call it shell-crete, where they mix concrete with already crushed oyster shell for the aggregate."
But the state showed an interest in Goose Island years earlier. In 1927 it reserved land for a future park-like project at this location. Eight decades later, Texans are still enjoying Goose Island’s many pleasures.
Watch the official Goose Island State Park video on YouTube:
For more information, call the park at 361/729-2858, or visit the website:
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