As one of the most visited outdoor and camping destinations in Texas, Brazos Bend State Park is a familiar, well-loved sight for thousands of people every year. With 35 miles of hike and bike trails, more than 100 campsites and shelters, six lakes, and perhaps the best place in the Lone Star State to glimpse the American alligator. Brazos Bend has a loyal following of regulars as well as national and international visitors.
Current visitors who travel to this touted tourist destination—located less than an hour’s drive from downtown Houston—will likely notice that one of the park’s old original landmarks is missing. Gone. Vanished from the park’s renowned scenic landscape.
But despite its very noticeable absence, park staff isn’t all that sorry to see it leave. In fact, they helped accelerate its demise.
No need for alarm—thankfully, it’s not one of the park’s signature, huge live oak trees; they’re hanging on pretty well despite the drought. What’s missing is the park’s old, dilapidated entrance sign, which had been clinging to life after years of sun, rain and hurricane-force winds had battered it to beyond function.
“You know, that sign served its purpose, plus a whole lot more,” said park superintendent Steve Killian. “It lived well beyond its expected years. If we hadn’t replaced it, it was most likely going to meet with a much less pleasant end. It really was just about to collapse. Our rangers had anchored, painted and propped it up remarkably well considering its condition. We just never had the money to repair it.” Until now, that is. Thanks to money set aside for basic repair and improvement projects Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – Austin Headquarters.
But, if you’re going to replace the roadside image of one of the state park system’s iconic places Brazos Bend has garnered consistent acclaim over the years, recognized as one of the best state parks in the U.S. and a top 10 camping destination in the world), it needed to be a special kind of sign, a fitting tribute. An entrance sign communicating the park’s valuable interpretive message of marshes and wetland wildlife.
Well, it’s taken more than two years, but finally, Brazos Bend State Park has a new entrance sign.
“We’re all really excited to finally see it go in,” said Richard Taylor, the park’s lead maintenance ranger. “We think it helps communicate to visitors what awaits them inside the park gate. It might even entice some people to stop and visit who happen to be driving by.”
The sign, which is more than six feet tall, and 15 feet wide so that it can be easily viewed from passers-by on FM 762, is constructed out of durable, stucco-like material and features a bold, 3-D rendition of the park’s most notable resident: an alligator, as well as the parks’ name in bright colors.
Thor Holder, owner of local business Signs by Tomorrow, was commissioned to design and build the innovative marquee from park staff’s original conceptual ideas. And even though its production was labor intensive, Holder kept prices low (donating much of his time) in order to accommodate the park’s modest budget.
In honor of the new sign, the park is hosting a ceremonial dedication and ribbon cutting next month scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 14, 2012.
For more information about Brazos Bend State Park, its many programs or the ribbon cutting for the new entrance sign, call (979) 553-5102. Visit the park’s Web site, operated by its friends group, at www.brazosbend.org or visit the official Texas state park home page at www.texasstateparks.org. Become a “fan” of Brazos Bend State Park on our Facebook page.