The Texas Department of Transportation has proposed building an interstate highway through Martin Dies Jr. State Park, a 705 acre state park in East Texas located near the convergence of the Neches and Angelina Rivers in Jasper and Tyler counties. The proposal is part of a larger plan to significantly expand Interstate 14, which would see the I-14 system grow to be over 1,000 miles long from its current 25 miles.
Currently, US HWY-190, a two lane highway, runs through Martin Dies Jr. State Park. Transforming it to integrate to I-14’s system and meet interstate standards necessitates its expansion to a minimum of four lanes, not including feeder lanes, along with potential speed limit increases. Consequently, this proposed development will result in a greater intrusion of the road into the park’s pristine natural environment.
Authorities with the park expressed concern through an Instagram post that states that the interstate would have “devastating effects” on the park, greatly damaging both visitor experience and conservation efforts. Currently, Martin Dies Jr. State Park offers a wide variety of recreational activities to its visitors. According to the park’s website, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a diverse range of activities at the park, including swimming, fishing, hiking, canoeing, selecting from over 200 campsites, or opting for a cabin rental. But, as the park’s Instagram details, the expansion would bring damaging consequences frequently associated with major interstates–such as litter, noise pollution, traffic, and fatal wildlife collisions–possibly degrading much of the natural environment that attracts visitors.
However, as per TxDOT, this proposal is still “in the early stages of the planning process” and TxDOT is taking public comments until Friday, August 11, 2023. Park officials have asked the public to join them in raising concerns about the detrimental effects that a major interstate would have on Martin Dies Jr. State Park through TxDOT’s interactive map that allows open-ended comments from the public on TxDOT projects.
To leave a comment voicing concern regarding the detrimental environmental effects that an interstate would have on the park, click on the link of the interactive map. Then, zoom in on the map section that corresponds to the location of Martin Dies Jr. State Park in East Texas, near the Louisiana border between Jasper and Woodville. Once there, selecting the orange “add comment” button will allow you to opt for “environmental concern” as the category of the comment, and you will be prompted to write an open-ended comment.
This proposal comes amid a number of threats to Texas state parks. Fairfield Lake State Park is at risk of being converted into a private, luxury gated community. Many other state parks face threats of encroaching development. Proposition 14, which proposes an amendment to the Texas constitution to create the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund–a $1 billion fund to create new state parks–will be on the statewide ballot this November.
State Parks Campaign Associate, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center
Andrea recently graduated with honors from UT Austin, where she studied international relations with a focus on environmental studies. Andrea is a first-generation immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, and is proud to celebrate becoming an American citizen this month. She now lives in Austin, Texas, where she enjoys the live music scene and playing soccer.