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TPWD News Release — April 20, 2011
WESLACO, TX—After operating for decades as a popular, privately run Methodist church camp retreat, Camp Thicket is now open to the public as a part of Estero Llano Grande State Park, located in the central Rio Grande Valley area of South Texas.
The camp, which houses two large group facilities, commercial kitchens, dining halls, cabins, a chapel, swimming pool and other facilities was acquired months ago by Texas Parks and Wildlife, but was in need of minor repairs, maintenance upgrades and improvements; most all of which have been completed (namely cleaning, painting, and mowing), making the facilities ready for group business.
In addition, Camp Thicket is located directly adjacent to the state park, which has become a popular birding destination, and was a primary incentive in the state park taking over the camp’s operations.
“Once the Camp Thicket folks announced they were thinking of closing because of a lack of funding, we immediately looked into the possibility of acquiring the land for our park,” said Marcie Garcia, superintendent of Estero Llano Grande State Park. “Basically, we were we interested for a number of reasons. First, since the camp already shares a boundary with our park, adding the Thicket’s acreage not only increases the park’s size and potential for trails, birding, and the like, but the land around the camp also has unique mature riparian habitat—which is rare for this area. There’s even a federally endangered plant species in there.”
In all, with Camp Thicket’s South Complex group bunkhouse, and North Complex cabins, the park can accommodate some 200 people combined with overnight, dining and kitchen facilities. Estero Llano Grande staff also recently converted a building in the park’s Lakeview area into group meeting space, coined “Paraque Hall,” which can seat up to 50.
Expectations are that such additions to the park will also have a positive impact on the system’s revenue picture, adding a new dimension to the park’s previously day-use-only experience, and meet customer demand for large group and overnight destinations.
“The group facilities, cabins and bunkhouse of Camp Thicket provide us the opportunity to offer overnight options to visitors here at Estero, something that we previously didn’t have,” said Garcia. “Camp Thicket has meant a lot to people all over the Valley for a long time; generations of people have been coming here. It’s nice to be able to continue to offer folks access to it, because there’s not a lot of camp retreats like this in South Texas that can handle large groups.”
For more information on facilities and rates available at Camp Thicket, contact Estero Llano Grande State Park at (956) 565-3919.