By Carlos Morales
It’s been six months since Balmorhea State Park first closed to fix extensive maintenance problems across the entire 42-acre park—and those repairs will now keep the West Texas park closed at least until the summer.
Multiple contractors are working on a range of projects spanning from a complete overhaul of the park’s sewerage system to finishing longstanding repairs on campgrounds and the San Solomon Courts.
“After careful consultation with onsite contractors, Balmorhea State Park’s closure has been extended to Summer 2020,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said in a press release.
Outside of the repairs to the park’s septic system and visitor lodging, the chain link fence surrounding the pool will be replaced with a barrier made of limestone and wrought iron. Contractors are also rebuilding the pool’s pergola, the shaded covering behind the high dive. One project has been completed since the park’s September closure: repairing the pool’s drainage gate which is used to control the pool’s water levels. The same gate caused a temporary three-week closure last year when it became “inoperable” and posed a safety hazard to swimmers and divers.
Since May 2018, the West Texas park has closed on three separate occasions—including the most recent closure—for a period that has spanned, so far, 16 months. The first two closures were partial and affected the pool area only. But the most recent closure, which began Sept. 3, has been park-wide.
“We won’t have a set date for the opening of Balmorhea until the projects at the park are completed,” wrote TPWD spokesperson Stephanie Garcia in an email to Marfa Public Radio. “As with all construction projects, unforeseen delays such as weather can alter completion dates. We will be sure to inform the public once the date for the reopening of the park has been decided.”
The pool’s most high-profile closure lasted nearly nine months while contractors made $2 million worth of repairs to a crack in the concrete lining underneath the high dive. The structural damage was first discovered during a 2018 pool cleaning. At that time, the park reopened as the swim season began.
Some believed the 2018 closure was the result of seismic activity spurred by recent oil and gas development in Reeves County. But, according to a third-party study, years of erosion caused the massive crack.
In the last 10 years, visitation to the far West Texas swimming hole has greatly increased, causing the park to cap the daily number of visitors. it allows.