Orange County Parks still without Parks Board

Published 8:43 am Saturday, July 22, 2017

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

In 1977, the Commissioners Court ordered that, working within its approved budget, “The Orange County Park Board is granted the authority as set out in Article 6079, Sec. 9, Texas Revised Civil Statutes, which reads: “Such Board shall have full and complete authority to enter into any contract, lease or other agreement, connected with or incident to or in any manner affecting the acquisition, financing, construction, equipping, maintaining, or operating all facilities located or to be located on or pertaining to any park or parks under its control. It shall also have the authority to disburse and pay out all funds under its control for any lawful purpose for the benefit of any such park or parks,” according to the January 3, 1977 Commissioners Court records.

At the beginning of 1994, the Orange County Commissioners Court held discussions for the length of terms for the Orange County Airport Board, the Orange County Mosquito Control Board and the Orange County Parks Board, apparently in disregard for the fact that the terms for the Board of Park Commissioners, as the law calls it, are fixed by state law. The outcome of these hearings isn’t recorded in the Commissioners Court records, but this seems to have been the beginning of the elimination of the Parks Board. The parks board starts to meet less and less frequently. During 1993, only one meeting was recorded, and only two for 1994. Per the Commissioners Court minutes, there was no meeting recorded between February of 1995 and February of 1998, the latter meeting being the last recorded in the Orange County Commissioners Court minutes to the present. No reappointments for Parks Commissioners were made after 1998, and according to Texas state law governing the Board of Parks Commissioners, appointments expire after two years. Conversations with Parks Board members on the last board indicate that they were never contacted about meetings or reappointments.

Hurricane Rita downed many trees in Claiborne West park, including some that damaged the hand railings of the bridge across Cow Bayou. This bridge, constructed with Land and Water Conservation Funding, is under the contract in which Orange County agreed to maintain the facilities available to the public for a period of 50 years. Rather than repairing the bridge, a barricade of plywood was constructed across the entrance on the west side at the terminus of the trail that follows the old tram road to the bayou.

The bridge has been closed from the west side ever since 2005, and the guard rails have never been replaced. The bridge has become overgrown with vines. However, on the east side of the bayou, there is no barricade nor warning sign, even though the steps leading down from the end of the bridge have completely rotted away.

The Canoe Basin is still there, but beavers damned the entrance to Cow Bayou several years ago. The wharf constructed by the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) long ago was washed from its piling and floated up against the bank. The gate to the canoe basin had not been opened for over 20 years recently, and had sagged into the ground so deeply that roots 3 inches in diameter had grown over the bottom rung.

The YACC is a non-resident youth employment program similar to the old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Deer blinds and other signs of individuals using the area for hunting has also been witnessed over the past 10 years.

Orange County Commissioners Court had placed on the agenda the discussion of naming a County Parks Board again. However to this date, one has not been established.

Currently, the Parks Department employees two full time positions and three part time positions.


[i] 1994-01-18; Vol 24, Page 29