The park’s future is uncertain, because there’s simply nothing left. Ike’s destruction was total.
“We’re starting from scratch at Galveston, everything was damaged or destroyed beyond repair, so it will have a totally new look. There will be a new park at Galveston Island, and we’re looking at a three to five year time line based on funding.”
Justin Rhodes has been the Regional Four District Manager only since March. Before that he was the Superintendent at Martin Dies Jr State Park in the Pineywoods, between Woodville and Jasper. His promotion has him being tested under fire.
“Moving down here, I knew we had the risks of hurricanes and you always have that possibility, so you have that in the back of your mind, and we do have the worst case scenario right now.”
Sea Rim State Park had been destroyed by Hurricane Rita and it was just about to re-open when Ike washed away those hopes.
“That was one of my personal goals to get that park back up and running and we were so close and to be in the final stages and then to come back and have nothing left, it was really devastating.”
Another start from scratch situation and even more money needed to get the job done.
Lake Livingston, Martin Dies and Village Creek State Parks suffered mostly downed tree damages and all should be reopened by the first of November.
But it’s not just the physical damage that Rhodes has to deal with. State parks are run by people.
“We have several employees who have invested their lives in these parks and are close to the end of their careers, and that’s been our priority too shuffle around the positions to keep these people working, to keep them in the state park system.”
Some workers not only lost the places they’ve worked for years, but also their homes and belongings.
“We had two employees living on Galveston Island State Park and two employees living on Sea Rim and they all lost their homes.”
So far Rhodes says everyone displaced has been relocated to another park, or an administrative job.
There is a skeleton crew cleaning up at Galveston Island. Rhodes says the goal is to re-open Galveston Island and Sea Rim, but at this point it is too early to fully understand the damage and the costs of rebuilding.