Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Earlier this summer, I received an email from Joanna Dowling of http://www.restareahistory.org/ informing me that a writer from Wall Street Journal had contacted her about a story he was working on regarding the possible closing of some roadside parks and rest areas in Georgia and along the East coast's I-95 corridor.

In discussions she mentioned to this writer my collection of photos and this blog. He was interested to talk to me and she wrote to say that she had given him my contact numbers.

So in late June, Wall Street Journal staff writer Mike Esterl (mike.esterl@wsj.com) called and we talked for over an hour about roadside parks and why I was interested in them.

In the end, Mr. Esterl was not able to use any of my comments in his article since, as he explained in a later email, for this story he was focused primarily on the closure (both real and possible) of roadside rest areas located along the interstate highway system; and my focus has generally been on roadside parks located on US and State highways within Texas.

Mike forwarded me a copy of the story which ran on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on July 3, 2009. I do not have a link for the story, and for copyright reasons, I will not re-print it here. But I am sure you can google it or contact Mike at the above address and he can direct you to it, if you are so inclined. I would recommend it. He is a good writer and he makes some salient points about the current funding situations for DOTs and their need to cut costs. Rest areas are getting the ax.

During our discussion, I had told Mike that I named the blog “savetexasroadsideparks” more or less on a whim, and that I did not know for a fact that roadside parks in Texas were under any real threat of extinction. Of course I have watched the new roadside rest areas going up along I-35 near Salado, and I knew that TxDOT had knocked down an older-style roadside park to build the new facilities. Most of that construction happened long before it occurred to me to take pictures of these old-style parks and structures.

However, on a trip last week from Denton to Amarillo and back to Denton (380 W to 287, a trip I have made probably 300 times since 1974) I observed some disturbing changes.

Granted 380 from Denton to Decatur (and on to Bridgeport) is a notorious stretch of roadway. The rock hauling semis run out of Bridgeport and run 380 hauling the crushed stone needed for all the construction that has taken place north of Dallas and throughout the metroplex. Back and forth, 24/7, right down highway 380. Thousands of semi loads of rock a month down a two lane highway. Well, finally they are making 380 four lanes for most of the distance to Denton and in doing so, they have had to obliterate one roadside rest area.

This park was located in the river bottoms along 380, and it is no longer there. Granted, from a safety point of view, 380 should be 4 lanes. And as usual, something had to give way for the change to be made. But this was a wake up call for me. This is a case in point that as things progress and changes are made, road side parks truly will sometimes be at risk. I at least want to document as many of them as I can before more get knocked down. And granted, not all will be at risk…or will they?

I was surprised that this one met the bulldozer. But it did. And so did all the trees that surrounded it, by the way.

Further up 287, just past Estelline, where 287 crosses the Red River, the entrance to this park was blocked when I recently passed by. I noticed that some large tree limbs had blown down (or were in the process of being trimmed) so maybe this park near the Red River bottoms is not on a permanent close list, but rather undergoing some maintenance.

Just across the road from here is the entrance to the Caprock Canyons Trailway, a hiking, biking and equestrian trail that heads south and west 64 miles to Quitaque and the Caprock Canyons State Park. The Trailway cuts across the back country on the abandoned Fort Worth and Denver Railroad line. Hopefully, that proxemity will be reason enough to keep it open.

Further up 287 heading west the TxDOT has also bulldozed another roadside area. All that is left on either side of the road are the signs reminding drivers to “Buckle Up” as they pull back onto 287. I looked through my archived photos, and I think that this area was just a pull off with a trash receptacle, and no other structures of any significance. (I was not a very meticulous record keeper when I first started taking these pictures.) Anyway, that area is about 10 miles outside of Childress, and when I went by there in late July, 2009 it had been bulldozed flat.

Of course, it was bulldozed because an area like this (pictured below) essentially rendered it useless and nothing more than space to pull off the road.

I’ve mentioned these state-of-the-art rest areas in earlier blogs, but I have not provided many pictures of them. So, I provide a few here. They really are nice, clean and safe – except for the rattlesnakes! And as mentioned before, they have interesting history, weather and interactive displays; plus cool architectural treatments, adequate parking, wifi and playgrounds for the kids.

But for me, I still prefer the old style. I don’t have any kids, and I can wait until I get home to check my email.