With the one-year anniversary of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history coming up, state agencies along with the Arbor Day Foundation launched the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign with the goal of planting millions of trees in and around Bastrop State Park.
A year ago this week Texas most destructive wildfire in history began burning in Bastrop, it was a site to behold. “We were looking at flame lengths that were 300 feet in the air and the smoke plumes were just full of fire and embers," described Roger Dolle, the site manager for Bastrop State Park. "We figured, there’s no stopping this fire. The only way I can describe it, it was like Satan was coming out of the ground.”
Along with thousands of homes, the fire destroyed much of the historic lost pines habitat in Bastrop County. The Bastrop complex fires burned about thirty two thousand acres, including 95-percent of Bastrop State Park.
One year later, with massive support from park staff, contractors and volunteers, all campgrounds and cabins plus more than three-quarters of the park trails are back open to the public.
“A lot has come back, says Dolle. "It’s kind of amazing how Mother Nature has rejuvenated a lot of this park. We have a lot of natural regeneration of pine seedlings out there.”
But more help is needed.
Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Arbor Day Foundation and Texas A&M Forest Service are launching the Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign. The goal is to raise money to buy and plant trees in order to restore the burned area both in the park and on private land over the next five years.
“As we launch the Lost Pines Forest Recovery campaign, we’re launching a new website where the public can go and learn more about and engage in this campaign through making a personal donation or signing up to volunteer to plant trees," explained Dan Lambe, the Arbor Day Foundation Vice President.
“As good stewards of the forest, we don’t want to put all of the trees in the ground in one year and then have the trees die from an extended drought," said Dolle. "So over the next five years, we’re going to be planting trees every winter and hoping that these generations of trees will root and replace the pine trees.”
With the park's re-opening earlier this year, people are returning too. “Turns out that one year later, we got people coming back for all the reasons they were coming before the fire," explains Dolle. "They’re coming out for family reunions, their gatherings, camping trips, come stay in the cabins so they’re not here because of the fire, they’re here because Bastrop State Park is still here.”
The Lost Pines Forest Recovery Campaign kickoff announcement coincides with the one year anniversary of the wildfire. Special events and activities will take place at Bastrop State Park and in the community throughout Labor Day weekend.
To find out more about the campaign go to www.arborday.org/texas.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department produces these multi-media reports as an educational resource.