November 21, 2023 451 PM
FORT DAVIS — Davis Mountains State Park is currently hiring for nine positions as renovations to the Indian Lodge and Black Bear Restaurant near completion this spring.
“Right now we’re in a big recruitment effort to try to fill those positions, even though the lodge and restaurant are going through renovation right now, we want to fill up the positions prior to starting so that we’re ready to go when it is going to open,” said Superintendent Diego Aragon.
The historic lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, and adjacent restaurant have been closed since January 2023. The popular site had not undergone significant repairs since the 1960s, said Aragon, and much needed upgrades to water lines, the boiler system, rooms, assembly hall and more were taking place.
The lodge’s landscaping, sitting and patio areas are also getting “a good makeover” as is the outdoor pool, said Aragon. The Black Bear Restaurant will be outfitted with new windows and updated aesthetics. The project is being funded, in part, by a state law that allows for a percentage of the sales tax on sporting goods to be diverted to the public parks system.
Along with all of the site’s cosmetic and infrastructure changes is the need to fill nine new positions including a lodge superintendent, restaurant manager, assistant restaurant manager, clerks, custodian and dishwasher.
The majority of the roles the park is looking to fill are full time and offer competitive pay and health insurance, said Aragon. The Legislature recently approved a raise in pay for state employees, and Aragon said salaries have gone up by 7% and are expected to increase another 5% by next fall.
“The pay rates have gone up substantially so I believe they’re pretty competitive. We’re very optimistic that we can probably fill these positions with the pay,” said Aragon.
Aragon himself is new to the park, having previously worked at Choke Canyon State Park south of San Antonio. He started the job as complex superintendent, overseeing the entire Davis Mountains State Park, this October.
He said when he started as the new lead administrator, all of the park’s vacancies were already present. When the lodge and restaurant closed to visitors around a year ago some of those employees were transferred to the park side of the operation, said Aragon, and some chose to leave. No one was let go, he said.
In addition to the nine new jobs the park is currently looking to fill, Aragon said he anticipates 10 to 15 more employees will be needed soon — meaning, in all, the park is looking to take on 20 to 25 new workers, primarily to contribute to the hospitality side of the park’s offerings.
Aragon said the park is currently around 50% understaffed, but because the lodge and restaurant are closed the shortage is not negatively impacting other employees.
He said Texas State Parks in the area like Davis Mountains and Big Bend Ranch routinely operate at a 30% staffing shortage, due to the far flung locations of the parks and limited local workforce. On top of that, the lodge and restaurant in Fort Davis have had difficulties retaining staff in the past, in part due to management issues, said Aragon.
For now, the Indian Lodge and Black Bear Restaurant renovations — unlike renovations at the nearby Balmorhea State Park which have stretched on for years — are on track, said Aragon. The current staff recruitment campaign, which has seen park staff installing banners advertising all of the jobs in nearby towns, is about making sure the park is ready to go when lodge renovations are complete, he said.
“We’re not up against the wall right now, we’ve got some time and that gives us some breathing room,” said Aragon. “That’s why we’re trying to do it now and not wait until the last minute so that we can be fully staffed by the time it does open.”
For more information, contact park staff Stephanie Rubio at 432-426-3533 x 268 or Aimee Oliveri at 432-426-3337 x 209 or visit tpwd.texas.gov\jobs.