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Communities near ITC fire are still affected nearly one month later

Traffic is moving on Independence Parkway but if you plan to head toward the park, be prepared to turn around. The road is still blocked off.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The aftermath of the ITC fire continues to affect the surrounding communities nearly a month after the incident started.

The San Jacinto State Historic park remains closed.

For the first time in 35 years, the San Jacinto Festival on Saturday is canceled.

Easter festivities next weekend and San Jacinto Day events on April 21 won’t take place either.

Traffic is moving on Independence Parkway but if you plan to head toward the park, be prepared to turn around.

The road is still blocked off.

The only other way to get there is by ferry and that is shutdown as well.

This situation is especially frustrating to those who depend on the thousands of people who visit the park every year.

Bill Irwin, park superintendent for Texas Parks and Wildlife said his staff is not going on site until they're assured they won't have to shelter-in-place, or need respiratory protection. 

He said it’s their busiest time of year.

“March, April, and May are when we get at least a third to a half of our visitation for the year,” Irwin said.

Which he said can add up to more than a quarter million dollars in revenue.

Being away from Battleship Texas has also been nerve-racking for park staff because she requires a lot of maintenance.

Irwin said technology lets them keep a close eye on the vessel from afar and they’re ready to move in, just in case she needs emergency work.

“We think this might possibly be the longest that Battleship Texas has ever stood unmanned in her 105-year history," Irwin said. "So we’re very happy with the way she’s going through this.”

Also, Larry Spasic with the San Jacinto Museum of History said the forced closure has affected the nonprofit’s bottom line.

“We’re rapidly approaching $200,000 of loss income for our museum,” Spasic said.

He said museum staff has gone without a paycheck.

“Our staff are troopers and we treat them very well and they’re extremely loyal to us and we’re all looking forward to getting back open,” Spasic said.

Even when the park is back up and running, Irwin said there will be work to be done before visitors are allowed back in.

“Those areas that we normally mow, we haven’t been able to get in and mow and cleanup,” Irwin said. “We have our own water and wastewater treatment plants. Those haven’t been able to function.”

ITC officials said cleanup continues but there is no timeline as to when the road and park will be allowed to reopen.

The museum is accepting donations.

If you would like to help, click here.

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