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Historic State Park Seeks Re-Birth After Floods

Aug. 9, 2011

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Leah Huth is the superintendent of Mother Neff State Park near Moody. She's thought a great deal on the subject of floods, as the park she oversees continues the process of bouncing back from a massive deluge in the fall of 2007.

History is important at Mother Neff, the first state park in Texas. The homestead of former governor, Pat Neff, who started the Texas State Park system, it contains 259 acres that border the Leon River and ascend gently up and away from the water. In this summer of drought, it may be hard to remember four years ago. That's when a summer full of rain completely saturated the ground in the area. That saturation turned a heavy fall 2007 downpour into a legitimate flood, closing the two main highways in the area and sending the Leon River to an 18 foot crest, smothering the lowest-lying areas of the park. Near the entrance, Huth describes the scene, using an approximately 20 foot tall flagpole as a benchmark.

The water did not subside for three months. And when it did, it left reminders everywhere. Silt and sand covered the trees, nearly choking them before it was removed. The buildings were badly damaged, as was other plant life in the flood plain. Those reminders are gone now, but not without time and effort.

And it wasn't until this year that all of their facilities were completely up and running, nearly four years after the Leon River spilled its banks. Huth describes the process as being simple in some ways: a lot of hard work and studying. And in the process of that studying, they realized that perhaps this catastrophic flooding provided them with a real opportunity. It was time to give the oldest state park in Texas a makeover.

Moving on up. That's the next chapter in the history of Mother Neff State Park. Just like the 74 year-old park looks very different now than it did four years ago, the next four years will bring significant change as well. Tomorrow, we'll look at why the park is moving its front porch, and why that means another flood at the park could be a positive in some ways for visitors and educators. You can see pictures of the park online at KWBU.org. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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