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Contact: Jason Ginder, 409-951-6700
We are pleased to report that the Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center has reopened to the public. On September 5th, we began distributing Hunting Permits for the 2017-18 hunting season. Currently, only 5 miles of trails have been cleared and opened to the public, including the Sundew Trail, the Pitcher Plant Trail, the Beech Woods Trail, the Bird Watchers Trail, and the inner loop of the Kirby Nature Trail. All other trails are closed until safety and condition assessments can be completed. If you come across a "Trail Closed" sign, please do not enter the trail. Many bridges, boardwalks, and trail surfaces have been significantly impacted by the storm. No backcountry camping permits will be issued until additional trail assessments can be completed. If you have questions, please contact the preserve visitor center.
As part of the Southeast Texas community, National Park Service employees have been working since the beginning of the storm to assist our employees and neighbors. During the week of August 21, the staff of Big Thicket National Preserve activated its "Tropical Storm and Hurricane Plan", preparing facilities and personnel for the arrival of Tropical Storm Harvey. By the time the storm made landfill on Friday, August 25th, it had reached hurricane status. Due to unprecedented flooding, intermittent power outages, and a lack of potable water, all preserve facilities remained closed for more than a week. On Wednesday, August 29th, the preserve stood up a local Type 3 Incident Command Team, led by Big Thicket National Preserve Fire Management Officer Fulton Jeansonne, to begin to ensure preserve employees are accounted for and safe, complete a professional condition assessment of park assets, and initiate ordering of recovery resources.
Throughout the storm and post-storm events National Park Service (NPS) Park Rangers worked side-by-side with Texas Parks and Wildlife Officers and other local officials rendering aid too many community members. NPS staff used airboats and other specialized equipment to rescue Southeast Texans from the rising flood waters.
NPS staff have assessed the northern units of the preserve and determined that all structure are sound. Widespread and persistent flooding has hampered work in many of the preserve’s southern units, especially in the Beaumont Unit and the Pine Island Bayou Corridor Unit.
On Saturday, September 2nd, Big Thicket National Preserve staff was joined by an eleven-person Intermountain Region Incident Management Team, a group of the Department of the Interior and National Park Service employees from across the country, here to assist in damage assessment and incident response. With their assistance, park staff began working to survey all park trails and day use areas.
At this time, visitors should consider all access points and day-use areas managed by the National Park Service along the Neches River to be closed. Floodwaters have carried in debris, compromised banks, and created unsafe conditions along all creeks, rivers, and waterways throughout the region. Due to high flood waters, increased flow, and strong currents, we discourage visitors from attempting to paddle or motorboat any waterway in the preserve.
We are pleased to report that post-Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts wrapped-up successfully and safely and overall operations are gearing down. Assessment of the park infrastructure will continue for many weeks to come.
The Intermountain Region Incident Management Team demobilized on Sept 5th and all remaining incident response will be completed by the Big Thicket National Preserve Type 3 Incident Command Team.
For general information about Big Thicket National Preserve, visit www.nps.gov/bith or call the preserve visitor center at 409-951-6700. Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/BigThicketNPS, Twitter www.twitter.com/BigThicketNPS, and Instagram www.instagram.com/BigThicketNPS.