Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State Parks - Improve – not remove.

Can a person camp without a campfire? Sure. Can a family still have fun camping without a campfire? We did. I am simply writing about the burn ban and the effect it had on the general population using one of our State parks.

My issue is simple. If there is a chance a campfire will get out of control from one of these fire rings - then engineering controls need to be amended, so it can't happen. Banning campfires and charcoal from picnic braziers is not the answer. Banning fire period literally caused MFSP to be basically empty during Spring Break and the sign at the front gate said "No occupancy".

The reason for this was all the sites were booked and paid for in advance, but the burn ban caused many to reconsider. I do not believe it was the rain, as it came and went both days with plenty of sunshine afterward and Saturday was dry and cool - perfect weather.

As far as "Engineering controls" go, a few issues that could be covered are this:

1. Short class at the station the first night you camp
2. Water hoses at the spigots
3. Possibly a CO2 fire extinguisher at the site.
4. Revised Fire ring with the predominant wind sides blocked (2).
5. Online course of campfire/cooking for a safe TX-issued fire card
6. Handouts at the gate explaining safe fire practices.
7. Random oversight by park personnel/volunteers for unsafe fire situations

Now I also understand that seasoned hikers/backpackers/campers have a more educated view of setting camp and camp-discipline, but most people who use the screened-shelters and improved sites (water/elect) want a campfire and many of us who camp often do too.

My beef is simply that the State needs to improve rather than remove. I asked about the fire ban being lifted and found out that it was imposed on the previous Tuesday. Tuesday? Why not Thursday? Why did it have to wait until the next Tuesday before it was considered again?

One Ranger said they thought the ban was on because of an "incident at Pedernales Falls SP", but they were not sure.

Another issue, which I did not bring up in my Blog and it is nothing more than a conundrum, was the firewood issue for the environments sake and I understand this, you are not allowed to pick-up any wood of any kind from the surrounding area and burn it. Fine.

You have 2 options. Bring your own wood or purchase wood at the gate. I brought in about 500 pounds of hardwood in my little car, which basically took up the whole back, because according to the official website Thursday morning, there was NO burn ban in Travis County and rain was predicted.

When I told the Ranger I was going to leave the wood for the next camper, they replied that it would be removed, as they sold firewood. When I observed the park staff removing a tree that was damaged, I asked if the wood could be made available for campers and they said "No", that would involve the forestry service, so they would use it for personal fires. (At no time did I have a beef with Park staff, in fact I talked with a Ranger for 15 minutes and we reviewed one of the videos).

So, the park sells wood and anything left is removed. However, since the burn bans, there has been little wood purchased, robbing the State Park of funds - but - since folks are losing their deposit for reserved campsites, they are still making some money. Then there's the fact that picnickers are not coming into the park to cook on the many empty charcoal braziers, the park once again is losing money and all of this is due to the burn ban.

Improve – not remove.

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