The first batch of Easter weekend campers began setting up tents, grills, lawn chairs, and even caution tape to mark their territory in Thursday’s cool, early morning air at Brackenridge Park.
Each year on Holy Thursday, nearly every patch of green space in the 340-acre park is taken over by hundreds of campers who take advantage of the park’s lifted evening curfew for the weekend’s festivities. It is not uncommon to find diehard Easter campers at the park as early as 5 a.m., when it opens, to beat the afternoon crowds in setting up a campsite and picnic area.
For the majority of those dedicated campers, Easter weekend at Brackenridge Park is a family tradition that’s been maintained for decades.
“We’ve been coming here for like 20 plus years, ever since I was a kid,” said John Ortega, Jr. on Thursday. He and his girlfriend, Charlene Garibay, arrived at the park around 6 a.m. that morning to begin setting up a weekend camping area for his immediate and extended family, about 40 people in total, he said.
It’s difficult to determine the exact number of campers who take to the park each year, said Homer Garcia, City Parks and Recreation’s acting assistant director, but this year the department is anticipating at least 1,000 people, if not more.
While it’s unknown exactly how long ago the Easter camping tradition in Brackenridge Park began, when it comes to claiming your camping territory, park visitors typically abide by a set of unwritten rules every year, Ortega said. Aside from the occasional dissenters, everyone usually respects each other’s space.
“Some people chain up their lawn chairs to trees or put tape around their area and when people see that they’re usually like, ‘Okay, someone called that space so it’s theirs,’” Ortega said.
Ortega’s family has camped in this same spot near the baseball diamond for about seven years. “People usually remember that,” he said, but just in case, his campsite along with many others is partially surrounded by caution tape to more definitively mark the site’s boundaries.
He and his family will take shifts staying at the site throughout Thursday and Friday while some go to work or run errands during the day.
Whether campers take to the park to spend quality time with friends and family outdoors, or to participate in Sunday’s Easter egg hunt, controlling the amount of litter tossed about the park has routinely been a concern.
As far as managing litter levels, including recycling, the City Parks and Recreation department partners with the Brackenridge Park Conservancy each year to raise awareness and provide opportunities for campers to properly dispose of their trash, Garcia said.
“Not everyone comes prepared for all of the activity and waste that will be generated,” he said. “So, we have volunteers (with) designated shifts to go through the park throughout the day, handing out trash bags and clear bags for recyclables for people to keep (their trash) collected in one location, and to keep it out of the river.”
The Brackenridge Park Conservancy and the Parks and Rec department lead a volunteer-based park-wide clean up on the morning of Easter Monday each year, to gather any other remnants of trash, big and small, left behind from the weekend. Volunteers and City employees typically have no problem finding an ample amount of litter to collect.
*Top image: Justin Lopez works on setting up a tent for his family during Easter weekend. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.