After wildfires, tourists return to Possum Kingdom Lake




Posted on July 2, 2011 at 9:59 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 3 at 7:45 PM

Possum Kingdom State Park

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PALO PINTO COUNTY — Fourth of July fireworks lit up the sky Saturday night at Hellsgate on Possum Kingdom Lake — proof that things are getting back to normal following record wildfires this spring.

Campgrounds were packed this weekend, and the Iocco family said they wouldn't miss it for the world.

They traveled from the Houston suburb of Pearland and are celebrating the Fourth of July at Possum Kingdom Lake for a dozen years.

"We planned this a year in advance every year, and we didn't even hesitate coming back," said Todd Iocco.

Not even news that 90 percent of the state park had been blackened by the wildfires could keep them away.

They love the customer service at local stores and the fireworks show at Hellsgate, but most importantly, the peaceful lake where they spend most of their time relaxing in their boat.

"The lake didn't dry up, so there's no reason not to go," Iocco said. "We love Possum Kingdom Lake. The lake is just one of the best in the state. Needless to say, we could stopped at lakes in Houston, but this is the one we come to every year."

Todd Iocco and his family say despite seeing burned areas of Possum Kingdom as they entered the park, that didn't affect where they camped out for the night. And they know the rules: No campfires are allowed this year due to the drought conditions.

"The campfire would be nice, but it's not end of world not having it," he said. "It's nice and quiet, and you don't have to worry about smoke blowing in each other's face or anything of that nature."

And it seems nature is the draw at Possum Kingdom Lake. The park ranger says every campsite is full and every cabin rented for the Fourth of July weekend.

On Friday, President Obama granted federal disaster declarations for 45 Texas counties following this spring's wildfires.

But Palo Pinto County was excluded, and local lawmakers want to know why. During the wildfires that spread from the Possum Kingdom area, dozens of homes were destroyed.

More than 3 million acres burned across the state. The declaration allows the federal government to pick up 75 percent of the cost of battling the fires that burned between April 6 and May 3.