Possum Kingdom bouncing back from devastating wildfires

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on July 3, 2011 at 10:45 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 4 at 1:00 AM

Possum Kingdom State Park

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The state is urging all Texans to reconsider the use of personal fireworks on the Fourth of July. Most counties are under burn bans after a dry year and a devastating wildfire season.

There have been more than 9,000 fires statewide, and more than three million acres of Texas have burned since November.

On Friday, President Obama declared 45 counties disaster areas.

One of the worst-hit areas is Possum Kingdom, where dozens of homes have been destroyed and some residents losing everything.

But this holiday weekend, the campgrounds around Possum Kingdom Lake are packed, and longtime residents continue to rebuild.

"There's 1,500 acres of land at the state park," said Park Ranger Scott Parrish. "Ninety percent of the park did burn, but fortunately for all of us here, the campsite and campgrounds were unaffected."

Mike Watson drove to Possum Kingdom from Arlington, elated to find the park and lake are open so he can continue his tradition of celebrating Independence Day at the lake.

"You just make the best of it, man," he said. "It's going to be the Fourth of July. Man, we've come out here for 30 years, and everybody survives. There's been some loss, but people are rebuilding."

And the Ranger Parrish can vouch for that, saying they've had a comeback among longtime residents who lived on the lake and watched their homes go up in flames.

"There's big areas — Gaines Bend, Sportsman's World — that were terribly affected," Parrish said. "A large number of homes were destroyed and construction has already begun. A lot of them have had their homes completely rebuilt already, so everyone who was here — almost everyone — is enthused about coming back."

They are coming back to a lake considered pretty special for its clarity. And it's crystal clear that resilience among visitors and longtime residents is leading to a rebirth in the Possum Kingdom region.

Business owners are expecting a boost from this holiday weekend, since the campsites are full and every cabin is rented in Possum Kingdom.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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