Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas will close for six months following Labor Day weekend to upgrade the park's utility system and add six new miles of trails.
The closure, which is scheduled for September 3 to March 1, will include the park's campgrounds, trails, and interpretive center. Indian Lodge, the park's hotel, and Black Bear Restaurant will remain open during the closure.
The closure is timed to avoid the busiest season of summer, but will impact the busy periods of October and Thanksgiving, says Tommy Cude, park superintendent.
"While we're not excited about being closed, we're going to do as much work as we can during that time to improve the park," Cude says.
The primary reason for the closure is to overhaul the park's septic systems, which were built in 1960 and have become unreliable.
"We are always experiencing some issues with at least one or two sites, and so the intent is to minimize the number of systems we have and minimize the issues and upgrade the facilities to meet today's standards," Cude says.
While closed for utility upgrades, the park will take advantage of the opportunity to address other projects. Those include upgrades to the bathrooms and dead-tree removal. The park will also complete construction of a new bird-viewing area.
The trail enhancements include improvements to about 6.5 miles of existing trails in the Limpia Canyon primitive area to make them more accessible to mountain-bikers. The park is also adding six new miles of trail"”dubbed the Sheep Pen Canyon Trail"”circling the top of a mountain at about 5,800 feet in elevation.
"Our intent is to have it usable for hikers, bikers and horses," Cude says. "It's really going to expand our mountain-biking opportunity, because right now we have one trail dedicated for mountain bikes and it's 1.7 miles long."
The Sheep Pen Canyon Trail will bring the park's total trail mileage to 26 and will also include the addition of about five new primitive campsites on the mountain.
"You can have a nice spot on the mountain," Cude says. "It's going to be a phenomenal experience for people."
Robert Alvarez, executive director of the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce, says the park's closure could make a temporary dent in area tourism, but the park improvements will be worth it. The closure coincides with the slow season for tourism, Alvarez says.
"Over the winter, folks don't camp out here very much. This is the best time to do it," he says. "We may be dropping a little bit in camping and tourism for the next six months, but I have no doubt that will double or triple that back when they're finished."
Most winter visitors interested in camping in the region head to the Big Bend National Park area, where it's too hot for camping in the summer, Alvarez says.
For those interested in camping in the Fort Davis area during the park's closure, alternatives include the Overland Trail Campground, MacMillen RV Park, Crow's Nest Ranch, and RV sites at the Prude Guest Ranch.