Goliad State Park Unveils New El Camino Real Visitors Center

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GOLIAD—The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) today unveiled two newly renovated sites in Goliad, the new El Camino Real Visitors Center at Goliad State Park and Historic Site and the improved Mission Rosario State Historic Site.

The new visitor’s center was originally built as a cottage for the keeper of Mission Espiritu Santo but has been refurbished to provide interpretive displays highlighting the cultural and historical significance of the site. Mission Rosario State Historic Site’s enhancements include the addition of interpretive panels for visitors to learn about the history of the mission, as well as an etched panel of what it looked like in its heyday. A parking area was also added, and the fencing at Mission Rosario was replaced and moved closer so visitors can have a better view of the ruins than ever before.

This project brings the story of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail to contemporary travelers following the historic route through four TPWD sites. This trail offers an opportunity for visitors to view the historical road remnants of the trail on public property.

“TPWD and the Goliad community is excited to open two of the four sites of the historic El Camino Real de los Tejas trail right in their own backyard,” said Brenda Justice, Superintendent of Goliad State Park and Historic Site. “Goliad is rich in history and we are so grateful to have the opportunity to share these special places with the people of Texas.”

The keeper’s cottage was the first building that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built on-site before restoring the mission. Prior to today’s ceremony, the caretaker’s residence had never been open to the public. The new visitor’s center will have interactive exhibits displaying the natural and cultural history of the park, as well as showcasing the skill of the National Park Service (NPS) and State Park’s Board architects and the craftsmanship of the 1930s period CCC men who built the site.

The project, along with work completed at Mission Rosario State Historic Site, are two of the four El Camino Real de los Tejas projects underway at Texas State Parks. Two future projects include construction of a new visitor’s center at Mission Tejas State Park and upgrades to McKinney Falls State Park’s visitor’s center.

Initial funding for the four El Camino Real de los Tejas projects was budgeted in 2014. With additional funding provided by the 84th Legislature and grants secured from the Federal Highway Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation, all four projects are either completed or close to completion.

One of the biggest hurdles to closing out the five-year project at Goliad was Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey hit the Texas coast during the middle the construction phase of the project last year. While the general contractor, Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction, was able to protect the keeper’s cottage from sustaining much damage, several other TPWD facilities along the coast needed their immediate assistance. Within a few days, Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction had replaced or repaired 10 roofs for TPWD.

 “Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction was an excellent contractor and we feel they went above and beyond to make sure this project moved to completion successfully,” said Jessica Davisson, Director of Infrastructure for TPWD. “We appreciate their dedication to the project since it began construction in 2016 and are proud of the hard work they put into the refurbishment of Goliad State Parks’ keeper’s cottage.”

In addition to Hurricane Harvey, there were other obstacles that came up during the renovation of the cottage.

During construction, the contractor discovered the original slab of the restroom floor was only one-inch thick and needed to be redone. The French drain system drawn on the original NPS-CCC plans were not connected as drawn and had to be corrected. Later, a sample of the original exterior paint color was found under a back-porch light that had been painted around for decades, so the original exterior paint color was reproduced and applied to the building. A faux ceiling was also found in the screen porch area and the design was changed to preserve that original detail.

Despite these setbacks, the refurbishment also revealed some wonderful surprises including one-of-a-kind carpentry and colorful wall surfaces dating back to when the building was erected in the 1930s.

This project could not have been completed without the work of Ford, Powell and Carson Architects and Planners, Inc.; Phoenix 1 Restoration and Construction, Ltd; TxDOT; FHWA; and KESPE LCC.

The keeper’s cottage will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For more information about Goliad State Park, visit the parks’ webpage.

For photos of the visitor's center grand opening, visit the TPWD Flickr page.