Bastrop Park’s CCC Cabins Survive Wildfire

September’s wildfires in Bastrop County that destroyed more than 1,500 houses and killed two people also burned most of Bastrop State Park’s 6,000 acres of pine forest, yet rapid action by emergency crews saved all but three of the park’s 1930s-era buildings.

: photo by Deanna Roy

Despite the devastation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials have set Dec. 1 as the target date for reopening the park to campers. In October, repairs were already underway on facilities affected by the fires.

The historic stone-and-wood structures, mostly cabins and a lodge, were erected by Civilian Conservation Corps teams during the Great Depression.

All told, more than 34,000 acres in Bastrop County were engulfed by wildfires that began on Sept. 4. Authorities traced the cause to gusting winds that toppled trees – already severely weakened from the extended drought – onto electrical power lines. Due to extremely dry conditions, many parts of Texas have been rendered highly susceptible to wildfires this year. After firefighters controlled the fires in Bastrop County, officials said it was possibly the hardest hit area in the state.

Bastrop State Park, located immediately east of the town of Bastrop, lies within a unique regional ecosystem known as the Lost Pines. The forest, significantly affected by drought, was considered highly vulnerable to wildfire in the months leading up to September. In fact, park officials outlawed campfires in April, one of many burn bans that took effect in the spring across the central and western areas of Texas.

According to a spokesman for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, three vintage buildings were lost within Bastrop State Park but 13 other New Deal-era buildings were protected by agency workers who soaked the ground near the structures with water as flames approached. They also doused roofs and used heavy equipment to dig fire lanes around the site in the northwest part of the park known as Pioneer Village.

The wildfire consumed two scenic overlook structures, one in the north part of the park and another in the southeast sector, and a rain shelter near the Copperas Creek Campground near the park’s southern perimeter.

The CCC buildings were designed by Austin architect Arthur Fehr, who followed design guidelines set down by the National Park Service. The intent was suggest harmony with the surrounding landscape of rolling hills and pine forests and use of native materials for construction. As a result, the park’s stone cabins appear as a natural outcrop protruding from the ground.

by: Stephen Sharpe, Hon. TSA

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