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Frio River Bank Work Begins To Save Garner’s Dance Floor
CONCAN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will begin a project Feb. 23 at Garner State Park designed to save the pavilion high on a river bluff where generations of Texans have danced and courted since the 1930s.
The $700,000 project to stabilize the rapidly eroding Frio River bank below the bluff is expected to last through late July, but isn’t expected to have any effect on Garner’s popular summertime dances at Texas’ most popular overnight camping park, says park manager Craig VanBaarle.
“The only effect on park users will be that those tubing on the Frio River will have to exit the river briefly and walk around the construction area,” VanBaarle said. “That will have the largest impact on visitors during March Spring Break and Easter weekend in April.”
The main purpose of the project, TPWD project manager Walter Moldenhauer explained, is to stabilize the eroded bank by employing mammoth blocks of limestone stair-stepped from the waters edge up the riverbank to protect the historic pavilion and concession building above. Once completed, he said, the reconstructed riverbank will resemble a natural stone-layered riverbank like many found along Texas Hill Country rivers.
Work crews also will be backfilling spaces between the limestone blocks with dirt to restore vegetation for native wildlife such as native grasses, wildflowers, bald cypress and cedar elm trees.
The riverbank below the concrete dance floor, where up to 1,000 dancers congregate nightly between Memorial Day and Labor Day, has for decades suffered erosion from floodwaters common to the Frio River.
The erosion threatens construction done by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s. The last major flood, in the summer of 2003, caused the collapse of the concrete overlook at the bottom of CCC-built stairs leading to the platform.
The overlook will not be rebuilt, according to TPWD’s Rollin Macrae, but the existing steps will still lead to a landing at the top of the new limestone benches. He said the agency is working with an Austin engineering firm to implement a design appropriate to the ecological setting.
Funds for the bank stabilization project come from Proposition 8 bond monies approved by voters in a 2001 constitutional amendment. The funds are part of $36.6 million in bonding authority approved in FY03 by the Texas Bond Review Board for critical repairs and renovations at dozens of state parks, fish hatcheries and other TPWD sites.
Garner State Park covers 1,484 acres and includes 1.5 miles of the Frio River frontage. Garner’s more than 400 campsites attract almost a quarter-million campers each year. The park is named for John Nance Garner of nearby Uvalde who served as vice president during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
For more information about Garner State Park, call the park at (830) 232-6132.
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