Most Texas state parks will reopen again today after an order last week from Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a Friday televised press briefing focused on gradually reopening the Texas economy during the coronavirus pandemic, Abbott announced the reopening of state parks, which have been closed since at least April 7.

However, visitors will have to abide by certain restrictions when they visit public lands, he said.

“In order to reduce possible transmission of COVID-19 in state parks, visitors must wear face coverings or masks,” Abbott said. “Also, visitors must remain a distance of at least 6 feet from people who are not members of the same household. And for now, visitors cannot gather in groups larger than five.”

For nearly two weeks, all of Texas’ 89 parks, natural areas, and historic sites have been closed to the public. In San Antonio, municipal parks have remained open, except during Easter weekend, when officials closed them to prevent camping and mass gatherings.

In an email Friday, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department press officer Stephanie Garcia said that all the parks that can reopen will open for day use only, with camping to be made available at an unspecified later date.

Starting at noon Sunday, visitors could make reservations for day-use permits only online. Visitors will not be able to pay entrance fees at the park gates.

This reservation system was in place as Texas parks and natural areas started to implement closures and restrictions even ahead of the governor’s parks shutdown. Government State Canyon Natural Area in western Bexar County was among those that closed to visitors ahead of the governor’s order.

State parks officials said Friday that a list of all the open and closed parks wouldn’t be available until today. As of Sunday, the department’s reservation tool was showing Monday day use reservations available at all state parks.

Some Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff said they had no advance notice of the governor’s reopening announcement Friday.

Nic Maloukis, Government Canyon’s superintendent, said he was meeting with his staff Friday to ensure the natural area can reopen. Unlike other state public lands, Government Canyon in normal times is open to the public only Fridays through Mondays.

“We are working diligently to find a way to make this work from every angle,” Maloukis said.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.