By Carlos Morales
An area-nonprofit is looking to raise funds to cover repair costs brought on by a wildland fire that burned through hundreds of acres in the southern pocket of Big Bend National Park.
The Big Bend Conservancy, the fundraising partner for the national park, announced the fundraising effort shortly after the fire sparked in the historic Castolon District. The blaze, which was contained 11 days after it first jumped the Rio Grande into the Big Bend, spread across nearly 900 acres of the sprawling West Texas park and engulfed the historic barracks building — destroying an historic adobe building home to the Castolon Visitor Center and the La Harmonia Store.
“We know there will be something that needs to be done,” said Courtney Lyons-Garcia, executive director of the Big Bend Conservancy. “It was an important visitor service, in addition to being billed as an historic site in park.”
Right now, Lyons-Garcia said it’s unclear what the park will do to replace the visitor center and store, which were housed in a building first erected nearly 100 years ago for the U.S. Cavalry during the Mexican Revolution.
“It’s really difficult to lose visitor services when you’re at a place like Big Bend,” said Lyons-Garcia. “It’s so massive and the visitor services are few and far between.”
The conservancy received the park’s permission to set up the fundraiser and will donate all funds once park officials finalize a recovery plan. Lyons-Garcia doesn’t anticipate recovery “will be anytime soon,” but said there might be a temporary plan in place for the start of the fall season.
“It’s going to be a big lift, it’s not going to be a small amount of dollars to replace the visitor center — it just simply is not, it will be quite expensive.”
So far, Lyon’s Garcia said, most of the donations have been made in honor or memory of a family member or friend.
“A lot of people’s memories in the Castolon area are picnicking with family and friends and, you know, their kids having popsicles or ice cream under the shade,” said Lyons-Garcia. “It was just kind of one of those places in Big Bend that is an emotional place for people.”
If you’re interested in supported the recovery efforts in Big Bend National Park, you can donate here.