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Improvements Rolling Out at Lake Whitney State Park
WHITNEY — Spring brought a new activity to Lake Whitney State Park’s popular mix of fishing, boating and wildlife watching: facility upgrading. Workmen are already busy on a host of improvements slated for this water-focused central Texas park.
Thanks to bond funding authorized by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, Texas Parks and Wildlife is boosting electrical services in several Lake Whitney camp loops, adding new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant restrooms in the recreation hall, building a brand new restroom in one camping area, adding new sewer lines in another, and upgrading four screen shelters and their amenities to meet ADA standards.
Almost $3 million in improvements are scheduled for 45-year old Lake Whitney, another checkmark on a long list of major Texas State Parks rejuvenation projects underway this year, all aimed at making the parks more fun, safer and customer friendly. Texas State Parks general obligation bonds have been sold to fund more than $44 million in repairs and renovations to park cabins, bathrooms, electrical and water systems, and other state park infrastructure. Along with fixing up more than 40 state parks, the bonds provide an additional $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas.
Lake Whitney Superintendent Jeffrey Towers said work began in early April on the first camping area most visitors see on entering. "We will get new electricity, new sewer and new water in the Big Trailer Park camp loop."
Most of the electrical work in that loop and several others consists of upgrading 30-amp outlets into the 50-amp pedestals needed by bigger and more energy-hungry modern camping vehicles. Lake Whitney State Park has numerous camping areas and four will get 50-amp outlets.
"They are mobilizing to really get after it," said TPWD project manager Greg Thelen. "Work will be staggered where possible to avoid shutting down too many camping sites at once. They will mainly focus first on the Big Trailer Park loop," said Thelen. "Once that is done, we are going to hit the rest of the (affected) loops in succession."
Many sites get more than upgraded. Eight current "water only" sites will also get 50-amp electrical pedestals and sewer capability. All the water lines are being replaced in the Big Trailer Park camping loop.
Improvements will not stop there. The park’s recreational hall will get two new ADA-compliant restrooms, one each for men and women, to supplement its current restrooms. The building’s entrance and exit will be modified to meet ADA standards.
ADA modifications are also coming to four of the park’s 21 screen shelters — three in the main shelter area and one in the group camp area.
Most of the shelter improvements are outside, Thelen said. "It means pouring a concrete pad for parking that meets ADA standards, followed by a sidewalk, picnic table and a campfire ring, all of which are ADA compliant.
Yet another project, this one serving campers on the east side of the park, is the replacement of an existing restroom with a modern facility that is Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) compliant.
For swimmers and boaters, the park — only 61 miles south of Fort Worth and 38 miles northwest of Waco — is a doorway to almost all of 23,560-acre Lake Whitney on the Brazos River. The Lake was formed in 1951 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river.
Located along the lower eastern shore of Lake Whitney three miles southwest of Whitney, the park is naturally geared to water lovers. Most of its camping areas are directly along the shore. In fact, many of the park’s 131 campsite spaces are on small fingers of land jutting into the lake.
Many campers can stroll right into the water from their campsites, Towers said. "Most of our shoreline is rocky, but the swimming area is sandy. There are some small bluffs."
The park covers about 800 acres of both open and wooded land. There are two trails, each about a mile long, one for hiking only, the other for hiking and biking. A boat launch ramp can handle small flatbottoms to large pontoons. Nature lovers will find a wildlife observation blind on the east side of the park and an interpretive trail on the west side.
Lake Whitney is one of the few Texas State Parks boasting a private plane airstrip. "We have some people camping under their planes," said park office manager Sandra Davis. "The other campers go look at their planes and talk about them." Miniature aircraft groups also use the 2,000-foot paved runway.
Wildlife watching ranks high among Lake Whitney’s most popular activities. Campers may spot deer, wild turkey, raccoons, possums, the occasional coyote or bobcat and, for the lucky and sharp-sighted, now and then a bald eagle. Feathered predators also include several kinds of hawks. Bird watchers can count on being busy; almost 200 winged species have filled birder checklists here.
Watch the official TPWD Lake Whitney State Park video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqa68_Kiih0
For more information on the park, call 254/694-3793. Or visit the Lake Whitney State Park website, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/lake_whitney
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