STAYCATION — History and the outdoors:Sabine Pass Battlegrounds park area’s best-kept secret

Published 11:32 pm Wednesday, July 4, 2018

High gasoline prices and an economy still struggling to fully reboot means that Greater Port Arthur people may enjoy “staycations” this summer, reveling in the tourism sites within easy driving distance. The News will highlight some of these this summer, places we’d all do well to visit.

SABINE PASS — History mixes with leisure in a spacious park at the southeastern most point of the state.

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“It’s Sabine Pass’ best-kept secret,” Chris Elliott, site director at Sabine Pass Battlegrounds, said. “It has so much to offer whether history or recreation. It covers all aspects for the family.”

The park, located at 6100 Dowling Road, has been under the management of Texas State Historical Commission since 2008. Prior to that it was a Texas State Park.

History-Civil War

The area was a strategic site during the Battle of Sabine Pass in a David-and-Goliath style story.

Confederate Lt. Richard “Dick” Dowling and his 46 men thwarted an attempted Union attack on Sabine Pass, which was a primary Texas port for Confederate shipments of supplies and was vital to the war effort, according to information from the Texas Historical Commission.

In a battle lasting less than an hour, Dowling and his men destroyed two Union gunboats, resulting in significant casualties and the capture of nearly 350 prisoners. Thanks to their efforts, area ports escaped capture and Union forces never penetrated the Texas interior in the Civil War.

History-World War II

The strategic location of Sabine Pass was also important during World War II.

In 1941, the U.S. Navy established a harbor entrance control post, or HECP, at the pass to provide defenses against potential enemy activity in the area. Soon after, the U.S. Army installed artillery emplacements at Texas Point (3.62 miles south) that included two 155mm howitzer guns on Panama mounts as well as four munitions magazines at this site.

The Army’s lease of land at Sabine Pass resulted in the location of a temporary harbor defense unit manned by the 256th Coastal Artillery Regiment at Texas Point.

Other elements of the defense system included two base end stations, an observation tower, signal stations, large coastal searchlights, a battery commander post and part of the Coast Guard Lifeboat Station, originally established in the 1870s as part of the U.S. lifesaving service, according to historical information.

The munitions magazines also held other ordnance for area installations.

The great outdoors

Sabine Pass Battlegrounds also offers a number of recreational possibilities.

“We have covered picnic tables and barbecue pits and a fish-cleaning station so anglers can clean their catch,” he said.

The site is handicapped accessible and there are areas to fish along the seawall.

Families can grab a lawn chair and watch ships traverse the waterway or see dolphins playing in the water.