Section 6: Safety Rest Areas and Picnic Areas

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Safety rest areas and picnic areas are provided for the safety, comfort and convenience of the traveling public. Safety rest areas (which include restroom facilities) and picnic areas should be maintained as necessary to assure that all equipment is operating properly and that the facility is clean and aesthetically pleasing.

The traveling public has an opportunity to observe the department's operation up close when they stop at safety rest areas. It is critical to maintain them at a very high level of service.

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Historic Picnic Areas

Approximately forty picnic areas in the state are considered to be historically significant and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. These picnic areas were constructed in the 1930s as part of the Depression era work program of the National Youth Administration, a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps. They typically have stone fixtures, historical markers and other rustic-style stone features.

Care should be taken to maintain and preserve historic features, such as table and bench sets, rock walls and fireplaces. Damaged elements should be repaired "in kind" using original types of materials with elements that are similar in size and dimensions to the original features. Historic features should not be removed if they can be repaired. Sensitive cleaning methods other than sandblasting should be used if possible. The Environmental Affairs Division can provide guidance for appropriate cleaning methods for historic stone and concrete picnic fixtures.

In 1994 TxDOT made a commitment to the Texas Historical Commission to retain as many historic picnic areas as possible. In many cases, historic picnic areas have long associations with communities. Often, there is also a strong local sentiment for them to remain open to the public. The Maintenance Division should be consulted if consideration is being given to closing one of these facilities.

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New Safety Rest Areas or Picnic Areas

New rest area construction should be part of a planned statewide program. A long term "Rest Area Plan" is published by the Maintenance Division that identifies proposed new construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation plans. Districts should consult the Rest Area Plan and coordinate right of way acquisition, design and construction with the Maintenance Division.

New picnic areas may be designed and constructed by the districts. This work should be coordinated with the Maintenance Division. In the past, some picnic areas were dedicated to a member of the family that donated the land for the park. However, this practice is strongly discouraged for any new picnic areas. If a picnic area needs to be closed, these types of dedications may make the closing difficult.

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Closing of Safety Rest Areas or Picnic Areas

It may be necessary to close an existing rest area or picnic area. Reasons may include highway expansion, continual abuse or lack of use.

Before deciding to close the facility, the following should be done:

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  • Contact at least 3 groups in the area that could take over maintenance of the facility instead of closing it (civic groups, non-profits, etc)
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  • Get written concurrence from the county commissioner on closing the facility
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  • Check with local law enforcement on any potential issues with closing the facility

If a group is willing to take over maintenance of the facility, the district will work with the applicant to execute a “Picnic Area Maintenance Agreement”, Form 2901. The applicant will be approved by the Travel Division, the sign design will be approved by the Traffic Safety Division, and the agreement will be approved by the Maintenance Division prior to executing.

Concurrence from the Maintenance Division should be requested before any closing to ensure that policies are administered consistently statewide. A request to close a rest area or picnic area should include the following information:

Once the area is closed, the district must file a "Notice of Change Roadway Maintenance File," Form 1125, and distribute it as indicated on the form.

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