FORT DAVIS Word quickly spread in Fort Davis after it was announced on June 14 that the spring-fed swimming pool and day use area at Balmorhea State Park was set to reopen.
Business owners and state park officials know there’s a package deal when it comes to the tourism industry between Balmorhea and Fort Davis.
When one of the main attractions is down, like the spring-fed swimming pool in Balmorhea was for more than a year, the tourism industry can take a dip.
“We are so far away from everything that if they are going to come all this way, they want to see Balmorhea and they want to go to the observatory,” Jennifer Harrod, who is the co-owner of the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel with her husband Richard Harrod, said. “They don’t want to come out here and do a third of what they wanted to do. If those big attractions aren’t available it definitely hurts our traffic.”
Harrod said there’s collective excitement as many of the attractions in the area are reopening after being closed whether it was renovations or coronavirus. Harrod said she saw immediate positive feedback once she shared on their Facebook page that the Balmorhea pool was reopening.
“As soon as I shared that on our page, I started getting reservations,” Harrod said with a smile.
The attractions in Fort Davis include the Fort Davis National Historic Site, Davis Mountains State Park that features the Indian Lodge, McDonald Observatory, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens and Rattlers and Reptiles Museum.
David Larson, the superintendent at the Fort Davis National Historic Site, told the Odessa American the visitor’s center has been open since last August and areas of the park that have been previously closed are starting to reopen. Masks are still required inside the visitor’s center.
“We kept the grounds open for this national park, so the outdoor areas have been open the whole time,” Larson said. “… If we were to break it down, 90 to 95% of the park is open.”
At the Rattlers and Reptiles Museum, there are 29 types of venomous reptiles and 25 types of rattlesnakes. The cost is $5 per adult and $2 children 10 and under with a $15 max per household.
The McDonald Observatory has a visitor center, guided tours and sky viewing and star parties. Online advanced reservations for passes are required. Prices for the general admissions, guided tours, evening sky viewing and star parties are listed here tinyurl.com/yrx9vwza.
According to the McDonald Observatory website, the observatory is currently limiting attendance to its programs. The observatory staff will use best practices in facility cleanliness. If a person is not feeling well prior to their visit, please stay home. The observatory will reschedule or refund tickets with no charges.
Deanna Hebert, the owner of Hebert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop and Herbert’s Heirlooms and Resale, said normalcy is beginning to return. Hebert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop serves ice cream from a railroad caboose painted Burlington Northern Cascade Green.
“Things are starting to feel a lot like normal,” Herbert said. “Adding the pool to it will help that.”