Dinosaur Valley State Park, Fossil Rim both temporarily closed

Mark Wilson
Dinosaur Valley State Park is now temporarily closed due to Tuesday’s order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. [E-T FILE PHOTO]

At the close of the business day Tuesday, Dinosaur Valley State Park in Somervell County — along with the other state parks in Texas — was temporarily shut down by order of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Although Fossil Rim Wildlife Center is not a part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife system, it had previously temporarily closed for the same reason — as a public health precaution during this ongoing COVID-19 threat.


Here is the April 7 news release concerning the state park closures, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s website:

“At the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas State Parks will be closed to the public effective at the close of business Tuesday, April 7 in order to maintain the safest environment for visitors, volunteers and staff. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will continue to stay current with the latest public health recommendations and will announce when a definite reopening date has been determined.

“Given the myriad of challenges and heightened risks of operating the parks at this time, we believe this is the best course of action right now in order to meet the health and safety expectations the state has set out for the citizens of Texas,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD. “All state parks will remain temporarily closed until public health and safety conditions improve. During the closure, staff will continue to steward and care for the parks to ensure they can be immediately reopened to visitors at the appropriate time.

“Outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, biking, jogging, walking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and the like are essential activities for Texas citizens. TPWD will continue to do its part to actively encourage and promote these opportunities in ways that are safe and close to home, said Smith.

“Through this trying time, TPWD has worked diligently to facilitate access to the outdoors across the state, including in the state park system, which hosted nearly 740,000 day and overnight visitors throughout the month of March.

Despite the implementation of increasingly restrictive visitor use measures to help minimize the transmission of COVID-19 at parks, “TPWD has reached a point where public safety considerations of those in the parks, and in the surrounding communities, must take precedence over continued operations. Difficulty in ensuring compliance with social distancing, problems in maintaining adequate supplies and keeping park facilities sufficiently sanitized are only a few of the challenges encountered by state park staff.

“While parks are closed to the public, staff will be working to help maintain the standard upkeep, maintenance, stewardship, and continued regular cleaning of site facilities.

“The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center is currently working toward contacting customers with upcoming overnight reservations to reimburse stays booked through the reservation system. Group and facility reservations have been cancelled until April 30. Cancelled reservations will not be charged normal administrative fees.

“Day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated to the Texas State Parks Pass, will also be refunded without penalties. The Texas State Parks Customer Service Center will automatically process cancellations of both overnight and day-use reservations. If your reservation is impacted by a facility or park closure, a Customer Service Center agent will contact you – you do not need to contact us. We are contacting customers in order of arrival date and appreciate your patience.

“Questions regarding state park reservations can be emailed to customer.service@tpwd.texas.gov and general park information can be found at TexasStateParks.org.”


Kelley Snodgrass, the executive director of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, posted a message on the site’s Facebook page on April 3, announcing the temporary shutdown of that facility.

The following is part of the message posted online (fossilrim.org/closure/), via a link on Fossil Rim’s main website:

“As a public health health precaution to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have decided to temporarily close Fossil Rim Wildlife Center to the public. Given how quickly this situation is changing, we will continue to provide updates here on our website and via our social media channels.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our staff, guests, volunteers, program participants, and the animals in our care. We have been closely monitoring the constantly evolving situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

“We have already notified education program participants and students that those programs were being suspended. If you have questions about our education initiatives and scheduling, please email us at Education@FossilRim.org.

“If you are a Fossil Rim member and have questions about your new or existing membership, or if you want to become a member, please email us at Membership@FossilRim.org.

“Essential animal care staff will remain onsite to care for the more than 1,100 animals, as well as our veterinary staff. We are planning to have an additional mix of staff onsite, as well as working remotely from home, to allow us to ensure Fossil Rim is ready to reopen and welcome our guests back once this critical situation has subsided.

“We want to reiterate, we have no reported cases of novel coronavirus connected to staff, and we have no reason to believe any animals are at risk.”

The message added, “Our animals are healthy and doing well, and we continue to provide them with dedicated, professional care every day. It’s important to note that the CDC has not received any reports of wildlife or animals in human care becoming sick with COVID-19.

“We remain in constant communication with our state, national, and international veterinary networks to monitor updates. We currently have a surplus of essential food and medical supplies for our animals, plus we will prepare contingencies and proactively monitor our supply chain to assure necessities remain on-hand.”