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Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov [TH]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Sept. 22, 2005

State Parks Host Rita Evacuees, Game Wardens Prep For Rescue Work

AUSTIN, Texas — As Hurricane Rita bears down on the Texas coast, coastal state parks are temporarily closing, while others open their doors at no cost to hurricane evacuees. Meanwhile, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens, many of them fresh from Katrina duty in New Orleans, are staging for a possible new round of rescues in their home state. (The Governor’s Emergency Management Council is coordinating Rita response for all state agencies, including TPWD game wardens.)

The entire field force of 495 Texas game wardens with approximately 500 boats is on standby for search and rescue operations as needed. Boats, fuel, manpower and all available resources are ready, with staging locations along the coast identified. The Rockport district office, La Marque district office, Victoria district office, Freeport field office and Houston Communications Center of TPWD’s Law Enforcement Division are closing to comply with mandatory evacuation orders.

All coastal wildlife management areas are closing temporarily due to Rita, a move that is shutting down several public hunts scheduled by the Wildlife Division for this weekend at various sites. This includes cancellation of public waterfowl hunts through Sept. 25 at closed coastal state parks and at Peach Point, Mad Island, Matagorda Island, J.D. Murphree, Guadalupe Delta WMAs. Likewise, TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division offices have been evacuated and closed. Boats and fuel supplies managed by both divisions are being moved to safe areas, ready for use by enforcement and rescue authorities as needed.

Yesterday, all Texas state parks were notified that Hurricane Rita evacuees will be allowed to use state parks as evacuation centers for the duration of the storm. Campsite and entrance fees will be waived during that time. Evacuee use pertains to inland sites, since coastal state parks are closing, as listed below. Additional state parks not shown below may also close as conditions change.

For the latest information on state park temporary closures and state parks able to host hurricane evacuees, phone the TPWD state park Customer Service Center reservations line at (512) 389-8900. A complete list of state parks, including a statewide map and regional maps showing park locations, is on the TPWD Web site.

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