By Carlos Morales
After being closed for nearly 3 weeks, staff at Balmorhea State Park say the park’s historic, spring-fed pool will reopen in time for the holiday weekend.
The most recent closure marked the second time in the last year that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department closed off the pool to visitors for repair work. It went into effect after park staff say they discovered the pool’s drainage gate became “inoperable” and posed a safety hazard to swimmers and divers.
The May 3rd closure frustrated eager swimmers, as the spring and summertime are popular times for the park. In the last 10 years, visitation to the far West Texas swimming hole has greatly increased.
During last year’s cleaning, park staff discovered what they called “structural damage” to a concrete skirting underneath the pool’s high-dive. Some critics in West Texas saw the closure as a result of seismic activity spurred by recent oil and gas development in Reeves County. But, according to a third-party study, the massive crack in the pool was caused by years of erosion.
Houston-based oil company Apache Corp. —which has had a presence in West Texas since 2016— donated $1 million toward the repairs and created an endowment to fund future repairs at the far West Texas park.
It’s unclear how much the most recent round of repairs will cost the state park.
“It is too early to have a firm dollar amount for repairs to the drain gate at the pool,” Stephanie Garcia, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department official, told Marfa Public Radio in an e-mail Tuesday.
Repair funds, however, won’t be taken from the new endowment, but rather from the state’s capital construction fund, which the state legislature appropriated $28.6 million for
The park hasn’t dipped into the endowment because it has yet to be fully funded by Apache. But even then, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s associate director Susan Houston says that money is earmarked for specific projects outside of standard maintenance.
“[T]hese funds will be used for beautification and enhancements above and beyond the standard maintenance needs of Balmorhea State Park,” Houston says, adding that Apache intends to fully fund the on or before December 2022.
While the park’s reopening might bring a temporary reprieve from the West Texas heat, the pool’s waters could be closed off again this year. Back in March, when the pool first reopened, Balmorhea Superintendent Carolyn Rose said she believed the park would most likely close again in the Fall to fix issues with the park’s septic system.
But Garcia clarified TPWD is unsure of when those repairs and subsequent closure will happen.
“We are currently in the planning phase for the renovations of the septic system,” said Garcia. “We will have a better idea of the timeline of park closures and costs once the project is underway.”