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Gov. Abbott orders all Texas parks, historic sites to temporarily close

"Social distancing is our best tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives," Abbott said in a written statement.

All state parks and historic sites in Texas will be closed indefinitely in response to the spread of COVID-19. 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the measure Tuesday. The historic sites and state parks will close at 5 p.m. Tuesday and will reopen at the governor's orders.  

The governor says the closure is in efforts to strengthen social distancing and prevent large groups of people, Abbott’s office said. 

"The temporary closure of our state parks and historic sites will help us achieve this goal by preventing the gathering of large groups of people," the governor said in a written statement. 

Abbott continues to encourage people to stay at home and follow social distancing practices. 

Carter Smith, the executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, called the closure "the best course of action right now." 

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Officials say the Texas State Parks Customer Service Center is contacting individuals with upcoming overnight reservations to reimburse stays booked through its system. 

Any group and facility reservations have been canceled until April 30 and will not be charged with normal administrative fees. 

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In addition, officials say the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department confirms any day passes purchased through the reservation system, not associated with 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," officials said in a news release. 

But before Tuesday, some parks had already locked their gates. 

"I'm ready to grill and enjoy this beautiful day," said Laura Gilbert of Waxahachie when she pulled up to Cedar Hill State Park.

But she found it closed in late March as a precaution, after a staffer had a presumptive positive case of coronavirus. For Gilbert, it's one more activity taken off the table.

"I'll probably just going to go back home," she said. "Nothing else to do!" 

Others got to soak in the last few hours, like Boyd and Pam Pelley of McKinney. They came out to Lake Ray Roberts for a kind of peace they hadn't had in a while. 

"To be in the sunshine and the breeze and hear the water... it's refreshing, relaxing," said Pam. 

What they didn't know when they pulled up is they'd be some of the last at the lake. It was less than an hour before state parks would temporarily close.

"We thought, we still want to come," said Pam. "Get out, enjoy what we can."

The Pelley's came out there for some perspective, and they got it. 

"You recognize, life will get back to normal," said Boyd. "It really will."

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