Abbott Opens State Parks To Harvey Evacuees, While Feds Close National Forests Citing Safety

Gov. Greg Abbott opened up the state parks to those getting out of Hurricane Harvey's path on Friday afternoon.
Gov. Greg Abbott opened up the state parks to those getting out of Hurricane Harvey's path on Friday afternoon. Screenshot via NBC
As people along the Texas Gulf Coast scurry through last-minute preparations in advance of Hurricane Harvey's impending landfall, even the Texas State Park System is getting in on the action.

On Friday afternoon Gov. Greg Abbott announced that all state parks will be available to evacuees free of charge. The state parks will be an option for people fleeing the storm, whether they are coming from counties that have officially issued evacuation orders or not, Abbott stated. (Aside from the coastal parks that are, of course, closed due to the storm.)

"Even if an evacuation order hasn’t been issued by your local official, if you’re in an area between Corpus Christi and Houston you need to strongly consider evacuating," Abbott stated during a press conference held this afternoon.

However, anyone taking Abbott up on this option (which is a pretty decent idea since with thousands of people potentially on the road to get out of the Category 3 storm's path lodging could definitely become an issue) had better make sure any campgrounds they are heading for are actually state owned. While Abbott is opening up the state parks, the National Forest Service is closing the national forests.

Forest Supervisor Eddie Taylor announced he is closing all campgrounds and trails in the Davy Crockett, Angelina and Sabine National Forests ahead of the hurricane. Sam Houston National Forest closed earlier this week. From Taylor's standpoint, the forests are not a safe option due to the potentially dangerous combination of high winds, possible tornados and heavy rainfall.

Taylor emphasized that national forest lands and campgrounds cannot serve as evacuation sites. “We’ve witnessed the destruction of high winds and heavy rainfall in recent years, and it is better to err on the side of caution than to place even one person in jeopardy,” he stated in a release issued Friday afternoon.

The national forest lands will not reopen until park personnel have deemed the forests and the roads around them safe to travel. Anyone wondering about their national forest reservations through next week had best make other plans since all reservations at these campgrounds have been cancelled.

Luckily, there are still plenty of state parks to choose from. We have more than 80 of them. Just watch out for any falling trees.
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray