EL PASO, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday had announced that most Texas state parks would re-open to the public next week as part of an initial step to get Texas up and running gain amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the governor's order does NOT apply to the state parks in El Paso County, most notably Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told ABC-7 that he received a message late Friday from Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director Carter Smith, who wrote that the El Paso County parks are among five state parks exempted from the order. Wyler Tramway and Big Bend State Park are also included on the exemptions list.
"Due to a range of operational issues, a select number of Texas State Parks will not be reopening on Monday including Franklin Mountains State Park and Hueco Tanks State Park," Stephanie Garcia, the official spokesperson for Texas Parks and Wildlife, confirmed to ABC-7.
"We will be sure to keep the public informed of the latest information regarding a re-opening date when it has been determined," she added.
El Paso City/County Health Authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said in a statement Friday night that the parks "remain closed until further notice due in part to the local Covid-19 trends."
The county suffered its' fourth-straight day Friday of seeing a double-digit increase in new cases as the city begins to approach 500 infections. Seven people have died to date from the virus.
“State leadership understands that El Paso County continues to see an increase in cases that cannot be ignored,” said Ocaranza.
El Paso officials also noted that the continued closure of the local state parks would reduce the "high risk of individuals getting lost or injured that would require the Fire Department’s Search and Rescue Operations to respond to possible mountain rescues, diverting critically needed first responders from the Covid-19 mission."