|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2009-03-27                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than eight years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [RM]
March 27, 2009
Hueco Tanks' Grenade Boulder Climbing Site Temporarily Closed
EL PASO, Texas -- Rock climbers recently noticed canyon wrens nesting at a popular climbing site at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site. Due to concerns about disturbing the nesting birds, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has temporarily closed Grenade Boulder until hatchlings fledge. It is expected to be closed for about a month.
Signage designating a temporary closure of the North Mountain locale was erected March 21, according to site Superintendent Wanda Olszewski. The temporary closing, she said, was requested and endorsed by the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition, whose volunteers were working on an erosion control project when the nest was noticed.
"This is the first case I'm aware of in recent years, or possibly the first ever, of a climber-requested closure," Olszewski said.
TPWD, which operates Hueco Tanks, and the climbing community haven't always enjoyed such favorable relations, so park staff were impressed that Hueco Tanks climbing coalition president Nikias Kiehnle and fellow climber Andy Klier came to them with the request for the temporary closure after they noticed the nest under the Grenade Boulder overhang.
Canyon wrens, as with all native birds, are protected by various federal statutes. The attractive songbirds are uncommon to locally common permanent residents in the Trans-Pecos and Texas Hill Country, TPWD wildlife biologist Mark Lockwood said.
While the Grenade Boulder climbing route is temporarily closed, dozens of other comparable climbing routes remain open in the park's North Mountain self-guided area.
Preservation of Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site's cultural and natural features is the site's primary mission and is required by law. Some climbing routes have been permanently closed over the years to protect archeological sites and other resources. But the park's mission also requires that the public be afforded recreational opportunities, and the staff works with affected user groups to try to accommodate their needs and provide the best visitor experience possible.
TPWD archeologists in 2007 assessed several areas at Hueco Tanks for signs of risk to archeological deposits, such as loss of vegetation, erosion or other changes that had occurred over time. Photographs of the sites were compared to photos taken of the same areas in previous years to determine user impact. Most of the areas were found to be in good condition, but those which indicated significant changes, such as the north face of Mushroom Boulder, were closed to further activities to protect valuable cultural resources.
Opened as a state park in 1970, the 860-acre site encompasses several clusters of 400-foot high mountains of granite-like rock that rise out of the flat Chihuahuan Desert terrain. Rock basins, from which the park gets its name, have served as a natural rain-collection system for millennia. Today, the state park represents both a natural and cultural oasis, where prehistoric peoples left a treasure trove of more than 2,000 pictographs and petroglyphs, some believed to date back several thousand years. More than 200 painted masks attributed to the Jornada Mogollon culture have been discovered at Hueco Tanks -- the largest collection of painted masks in North America.
In the 1980s, Hueco Tanks earned an international reputation as a top rock-climbing spot, especially during mild winter months. In addition, a growing number of school groups from El Paso and throughout West Texas find the park to be an outstanding outdoor classroom.
Because of graffiti and other past damage to some of Hueco Tanks' invaluable archeological treasures and its fragile desert ecosystem, park users' access to the park has been limited in recent years in accordance with a public use plan. Park visitors must watch a 20-minute TPWD video that explains the history of Hueco Tanks, the importance of conserving its natural and cultural resources, and defines the park's self-guided and guided-only areas
North Mountain, with roughly four miles of marked trails, is open to unguided access for up to 70 persons at a time, while West Mountain, East Mountain and East Spur areas can be visited only on tours led by park staff, trained volunteers and commercial guides. Visitors also can choose from guided hiking, birding, rock climbing and bouldering tours, as well as three levels of rock art tours.
For more information, call Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site at (915) 857-1135.

[ Note: This item is more than eight years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ] [AR]
March 27, 2009
Boating Accident Victim Recovered from Richland Chambers Reservoir
Search Continues for Victim's Grandson
AUSTIN, Texas -- Divers from the Texas Department of Public Safety recovered the body of Jerry King, 72, of Athens from Richland Chambers Reservoir at 9:30 a.m. today. Texas game wardens earlier had identified a return on side-scan sonar that proved to be King.
King and his grandson, 17-year-old Jerrod Rachel, were reported missing March 24 after King's pontoon boat was found lodged in standing timber near Hickey Island north of the U.S. Hwy 287 bridge on the 41,000-acre lake in Navarro County.
A fisherman at Oak Cove Marina reported seeing King's pontoon boat drift past Tuesday afternoon but initially thought the occupants were just out of sight. The boat's global positioning system indicated that it began drifting approximately one-half mile south of the bridge. Game wardens reconstructed the boat's track across the lake using the GPS and have focused search efforts along a broad swath of water along that path.
Game Warden Capt. Gary Dugan said that this morning's recovery gives searchers confidence that they are looking in the right area for Rachel, who is still missing.
"It's been a tough week out here on the water for everyone, but an especially difficult time for the family of these two men," said Dugan. "We're going to keep working this until we can return Jerrod to his family so they can have some closure."
Four game warden boats, a boat from the Henderson County Sheriff's Office and a command center from the Navarro County Sheriff's Office are all on scene as the search continues today.
While the accident is still under investigation, Dugan said that damage to railing near the bow of the boat indicates that one of the men may have fallen or been swept overboard, and the other man then jumped in to rescue him. Neither man is believed to have been wearing a life jacket.
Thursday, game wardens recovered the body of Jarod David Dawkins, 27, who was missing since the boat he was on capsized March 17 near Sparta Valley Park on Belton Lake. Dawkins' body was recovered at 9:03 a.m. just north of the water treatment plant near Westcliff Park. One other man died in that accident while three other passengers survived.
"Life jackets are a big issue," said Game Warden Maj. Alfonso Campos, chief of marine safety enforcement for TPWD. "About 90 percent of the boating fatality victims we recover are not wearing life jackets. Children 12-years-old and younger are required by law to wear life jackets anytime a vessel is not anchored or tied-up. If adults would make that leap and think of a life jacket the same way we think of seatbelts in automobiles, we'd have a lot fewer fatalities."
"The investigation is ongoing, but it appears that the boat was overloaded, nobody had a life jacket on and alcohol was involved," said Game Warden Maj. Rolly Correa, who led the Belton Lake search. "People who live on the lake or spend a lot of time out there sometimes get complacent and just get in the boat and go. This is a tragic reminder that accidents like this can happen to anyone and can happen in seconds."
Despite increased boating safety outreach and education efforts and enforcement of safe boating regulations across the state, 2008 saw a 10-year high in the number of boating accidents (271) and fatalities (61) across Texas. At the same time, the number of registered boats in the state has fallen slightly.
"Sadly, nearly all of the boating fatalities we've seen in the past year were preventable," said Campos. "Boaters under the age of 18 are required to complete an approved boater education course, but that $13, one-day class is optional for everyone else. We believe even the most basic boater safety education makes a difference on the water."
Campos said that approximately one-third of boating fatalities in Texas are alcohol-related, and suggested that boaters designate a sober driver on the water and for the ride home. A person convicted of boating while intoxicated may be jailed for up to 180 days and fined as much as $2,000, as well as lose their automobile driver's license.
For more information about safe boating, please visit: http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/responsible/index.phtml
For more information about approved boater education courses, go to: http://tpwd.texas.gov/learning/boater_education/index.phtml