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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2010-09-09                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than three years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Rob McCorkle, TPWD, (830) 866-3533 or robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov; Tony Bettis, TPWD project manager (512) 389-8382 or tony.bettis@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Sept. 9, 2010
Planning Firm Hired for Galveston Island State Park Redevelopment
Public Hearing Set for Sept. 21
AUSTIN - The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has hired MESA Design Group of Dallas to lead a master planning and design team that will guide redevelopment of hurricane-ravaged Galveston Island State Park. TPWD also is asking stakeholders to provide their opinions and ideas regarding future park development via a Web survey.
MESA and its team of consultants are charged with creating a design that will transform the island park severely damaged in 2008 by Hurricane Ike into a premiere destination within the Texas state park system, in part by utilizing such sustainable elements as alternative energy sources and rainwater harvesting. MESA and its partners have a national portfolio of award-winning work in the master planning and design of environmentally based recreational and park venues, including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Grand Canyon Transit Center.
The online survey is one of many opportunities for citizens to share opinions and ideas about how they would like to see the park developed and what kind of recreational opportunities they would like to have. This is the first time TPWD has surveyed the public to gather input about what users would like to see included in state park design and development.
"Each year, visitors from Texas and the United States visit Galveston Island State park. Additionally, we have a group of folks that were displaced by Hurricane Ike who no longer live in the area," says Justin Rhodes, TPWD's regional director of state parks in southeast Texas. "We wanted a mechanism to secure feedback from a wide range of geographically diverse stakeholders. The online survey seemed like the best and most cost-effective way to do this."
The survey can be accessed by visiting: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/galvestonisland Information collected will help the team of consultants working on the plan to gauge the level of importance of different aspects of the park or potential improvements. In addition, TPWD and park planners will be seeking input through a series of public hearings to be held in coming months. The first meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 21 in the Lecture Theater, Ocean and Coastal Studies Building #3029 on the Texas A&M Galveston campus. For more information, contact Trey Goodman at (409) 737-1222.
Barring any environmental or cultural resource issues, the Galveston Island State Park master plan is expected to be completed by next spring. The park development timetable calls for the submission of architectural drawings and the design plan by January of 2012. Depending on the availability of funds, the earliest construction would begin is spring of 2012, according to Tony Bettis, regional project manager for TPWD's Infrastructure Division.
Funding for the hiring of consultants to develop a master plan to design and rebuild the state park was provided by the Texas Legislature from a portion of the state's Hurricane Ike recovery funds.
Galveston Island State Park is open seven days a week and offers full services on the bay side and limited camping and day use facilities on the beach side until a master plan is developed, environmental assessment completed and permanent facilities rebuilt. To facilitate the reopening of the beach side, electrical power and water have been restored, and a structure has been moved in to serve as temporary headquarters. The original headquarters building and all other beachside facilities were destroyed by Hurricane Ike. Dozens of volunteers from The Friends of Galveston Island State Park and other interested individuals pitched in after the storm to clean up the park to help it reopen way ahead of schedule.
Galveston Island State Park occupies a sliver of land at the midway point of the barrier island about six miles southwest of the western tip of the popular sea wall. The bay side provides public access to about 600 acres of grasslands with coastal scrub and scattered oak mottes, as well as hundreds of additional acres of saltwater sloughs, wildlife-rich wetlands and tidal bayous.
Galveston Island State Park hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The park office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The park entry fee for persons 13 and older is $5.
Visitors can reach Galveston Island State Park from FM 3005 (Seawall Boulevard). For more information, call the park at (409) 737-1222.
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On the Net:
http://archive.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/galveston/
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Sept. 9, 2010
Hill Country State Natural Area to Host Cattle Drive Oct. 15-17
BANDERA - Saddle up and experience a slice of the Old West at the inaugural Cowboy Capital Cattle Drive taking place Oct. 15-17 at Hill Country State Natural Area.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is partnering with Running R Guest Ranch to bring to life the legendary longhorn cattle drives of the 1880s, when Bandera served as one of the main gathering points on the Great Western Trail when millions of head were driven to Dodge City, Kan., and other Midwestern markets. Bandera, which today is home to a number of dude ranches, bills itself as the "Cowboy Capital of the World."
Registration is limited to 25 participants, 16 and older, and takes place through the Running R by signing up on its Website or by calling (830) 796-3984. The guest wranglers will bunk at the guest ranch on Friday, Oct. 15, and arise early the next morning to saddle their mounts, round up the longhorns on the ranch, and begin driving them to nearby the Hill Country State Natural Area. Drovers, both experienced hands and tenderfoots, will be working 50-plus head of the legendary stock.
The longhorns will be driven approximately 6 miles along several park trails, stopping at the park headquarters, where they will be penned while the "dudes" chow down on chuck wagon vittles before being driven to the Group Lodge. Wranglers will camp with the herd Saturday night, eating a barbecue dinner, and drive the cattle back 6 miles to the Running R the next morning.
This will be TPWD's first time to host a longhorn cattle drive in a state park outside of ones that have been held twice a year since 1995 at Big Bend Ranch State Park in far west Texas. For years now, Hill Country SNA has enjoyed a close relationship with the adjacent Running R Guest Ranch and other nearby dude ranches, as well as horse outfitters.
Because of its remote but scenic location, minimal development, 50 miles of trails and facilities catering to equestrians, the 5,500-acre state natural area makes an ideal place to host a longhorn cattle drive. Park superintendent Paul David Fuentes refers to it as the place "where the road ends and the West begins."
Fuentes says he jumped at the change to host the drive when approached by Running R's owner, Diane "Tiggs" Migliaccio, who often leads horseback riders into the state natural area.
"If we in Bandera and the Texas Hill Country are to be true to our heritage," Fuentes says, "we have to provide these kinds of activities so we can really showcase the ranching way of life and our Western culture. Working with guide service contractors like the Running R also demonstrates to the public that we can think outside the box and use public-private partnerships as a way to meet growing demand for what people seek in their state parks."
Migliaccio, who purchased the 230-acre Running R ranch two years ago, thinks the cattle drive at Hill Country SNA is a perfect fit and gives the public a rare chance to experience a bit of the cowboy life in the heart of Texas in a state park that many are unaware exists.
"I lived in Austin prior to this and I had no idea this park was here," says the New Jersey native who as a youngster used to visit her uncle's thoroughbred operation. "It still amazes me that so many people live so close by and don't know it exists.
"The park is full of history, such as the spring barn that's still here. When I look at it, I wonder what took place here years ago. I thought to myself how cool it would be to bring the cattle through here. I felt somebody needs to teach people what their heritage is all about."
Migliaccio praises Hill Country SNA's natural beauty and the scenic spots the drovers will visit during the cattle drive. She says her equestrian guests never fail to be awed by what they see in the park, from clear-running streams and oak- and juniper-covered canyons to wildflower meadows and mountaintop vistas.
The state natural area opened to the public in 1984 after the state acquired it in 1976 through donation and purchase. A bulk of the acreage was gifted by the Merrick Bar-O Ranch whose owners stipulated that the land "be kept far removed and untouched by modern civilization, where everything is preserved intact, yet put to useful purpose."
Those purposes include horseback riding, hiking, primitive camping, backpacking, birding, nature photography, mountain biking and even geocaching.
Fuentes invites the public to come out to the park on Saturday, Oct 16, for lunch and entertainment, and watch a bit of the modern-day cattle drive. Hill Country SNA is located 12 miles southwest of Bandera and 52 miles northwest of San Antonio on FM 1077. For more information about the park, call (830) 796-4413 or visit: http://archive.tpwd.state.tx/spdest/findadest/parks/hill_country.
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Sept. 9, 2010
Fish Kill on Lake Fairfield
ATHENS -- A major fish kill occurred at Lake Fairfield August 25 through 26, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologist Richard Ott.
Fish kills also occurred on Lake Fairfield in 2008 and 2009, but this year's kill was several weeks earlier and of much greater magnitude.
An estimated 1,255,674 fish were killed, which was higher than previous years (914,189 in 2009 and 121,568 in 2008). The majority of the fish by number were threadfin shad, gizzard shad, and tilapia but also included sunfishes and common carp. However, a substantial number of game fishes were also killed in this event, including an estimated 27,731 red drum; 48,176 largemouth bass; 1,474 channel catfish and 313 flathead catfish.
Luminant Power staff noticed dead fish the morning of August 25 and notified TPWD Inland Fisheries management and Kills and Spills Team (KAST) biologists. TPWD personnel arrived at the scene that afternoon and began assessing the situation to determine the extent of the kill.
Dead fish were located along 12.25 miles of shoreline from the dam to the effluent cove on the west side of the reservoir and to Big Brown Creek cove on the east shoreline. Dead fish were also abundant on the surface throughout the lower half of the reservoir.
Water quality datasondes (electronic data-gathering devices) were deployed in the northwest cove (within the kill zone) and offshore of the south boat ramp (outside the kill zone) to provide water temperature and dissolved oxygen data at 30-minute intervals over a several-week period. Six detailed shoreline counts and eight open-water transects of dead fish were conducted in randomly selected sections to allow estimation of the total kill.
Water quality data collected at Lake Fairfield on August 25 indicated extensive areas of lower-than-normal dissolved oxygen in the areas where the fish kill occurred. Dissolved oxygen levels below 5 mg/L cause stress and levels below 3 mg/L are fatal to most species of fish.
Daytime dissolved oxygen levels of 0-3 mg/L were recorded August 25 and dropped to 0 mg/L that night. Datasondes documented additional low-oxygen events from August 31- September 2 and again from September 4 to 8, but no additional fish kills have been reported.
The numbers of red drum and largemouth bass killed were considerably above the 2009 fish kill estimates of 1,579 red drum and 1,928 largemouth bass and 2008 estimates of 3,718 red drum and 257 largemouth bass. To put these numbers in perspective, anglers only harvested an estimated 1,329 red drum and 211 largemouth bass during the September 2008 through May 2009 creel survey. TPWD has stocked over 6.2 million red drum in Fairfield since 1984, and anglers spent over 9,000 hours seeking them at Lake Fairfield during the six-month creel survey in 2008-2009.
Normally microscopic plants called phytoplankton produce oxygen using a process called photosynthesis during daylight hours and increase oxygen concentration enough to compensate for respiration (oxygen use) by those same phytoplankton and fish as well as bacterial decomposition. However, during periods of cloudy weather, sunlight (measured as solar radiation) is reduced; oxygen consumption remains high but oxygen production is greatly reduced. When cloudy weather lasts for several days and oxygen concentration falls below the minimum level to support aquatic life, fish begin to die.
Because the watershed for Lake Fairfield is small relative to lake volume, make-up water is pumped from the Trinity River to maintain elevation. Trinity River water is high in nutrients, which are further concentrated in Lake Fairfield due to evaporation and lack of water discharge through the dam. This high level of nutrients contributes to high phytoplankton and fish production in Lake Fairfield but also contributes to dissolved oxygen depletion during cloudy weather.
TPWD biologists began to unravel the ecological factors contributing to fish kills on Lake Fairfield in fall 2009. By combining oxygen data from the datasondes with solar radiation data from a local weather station, biologists were able to understand the mechanisms leading to repeated kills at Lake Fairfield.
In late August and September, water temperature and bacterial activity are still high but day length shortens incrementally. In power-plant reservoirs such as Fairfield, water temperature and day length can become out of phase and increase the probability of fish kills.
Similar fish kills have also been reported at other power-plant lakes such as Victor Braunig and Calaveras near San Antonio but are of much lower magnitude than those at Lake Fairfield.
"It is unknown how the present fish kill will affect the fishery at Lake Fairfield," Ott said. "TPWD staff will conduct additional fish sampling at Lake Fairfield this fall and next spring. Staff will be able to compare catch rates and size distribution to sampling in fall 2008 and spring 2009 and will be better able to assess the population effects to each species."
Additional information about the kill and comparative size distribution of fishes involved over the past three years is available on the Inland Fisheries District 3-C Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TPWDIFTyler
The TPWD Kills and Spills Team is a group of biologists who respond to pollution reports or natural incidents that threaten state fish or wildlife resources. If you see dead or dying fish or wildlife or pollution threatening fish and wildlife, please contact the 24-hour Communication Center at (512) 389-4848, or contact your local game warden.
Additional information about KAST is available at http://archive.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/environconcerns/kills_and_spills/index.phtml.
Questions about the Lake Fairfield fishery should be directed to District Biologist Richard Ott at (903)-566-2161, richard.ott@tpwd.texas.gov
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