Texas State Parks Offer a Crucial Connection with the Outdoors


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The “Metroplex’s Playground”: Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, west of Fort Worth, is slated to open to the public in 2023.

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Texas is blessed with an incredible diversity of ecosystems that are the basis of the lands, waters and wildlife that we cherish. From the Panhandle Plains to the coastal prairies, and the desert landscape of far west Texas to the Pineywoods of east Texas, our state is rich in natural treasures that nourish our souls.

A network of local, state and national parks allows us to escape the asphalt and concrete of cities for a respite in nature. But these recreation areas represent less than 5% of the territory of Texas. As our population continues to grow rapidly, the pressure on public lands is greater than ever.

The pandemic has underscored the incredible value of our public green spaces. As COVID-19 has disrupted our normal routines and restricted our activities, we have seen a huge demand for access to public parks and a renewed appreciation for the outdoors. We have again recognized the importance of outdoor spaces in keeping our minds and bodies healthy.

The need to invest in our parks, both the historic ones we visited as children and those that have yet to open, is more important than ever. Creating new parks and managing existing parks is a priority for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. Department General Carter Smith, who has led our state park system since 2008, has weathered hurricanes, droughts, ice storms and seven legislative sessions along the way.

In 2019, the legislature authorized $ 12.5 million for the development of North Texas’ newest state park in over 25 years – Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. The credit came with a pledge that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation would raise $ 9 million in private funds to bring the park to life.

The foundation is on track to meet this goal, and construction of the park facilities will begin next year.

The public-private partnership to deliver transformational outdoor experiences to Texans illustrates the future of land acquisition and conservation in our state. Even with the commitment of sporting goods sales taxes for state parks, there remains a huge need for private money to meet the outdoor recreation demands of our rapidly growing population.

The Parks Foundation’s 2014 acquisition of Powderhorn Ranch is another example of this public-private approach to ensuring all Texans can experience our state’s wilderness and inspiring wilderness.

The remaining area of ​​the ranch was recently donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the creation of a state park. Powderhorn Ranch is one of the largest stretches of unspoiled coastal prairie in Texas, and through this incredible partnership effort, it will be accessible to Texas residents for generations to come.

My long-term involvement in these two heritage projects has been deeply gratifying. When I left the corporate world decades ago to devote my time and energy to conservation, it was for my own individual connection with the outdoors and my intellectual understanding that we all needed land. and healthy waters to thrive.

Once I became a mother, that bond deepened. I hope to spend the rest of my career ensuring that my son and the next generation have access to these outdoor treasures.

Thanks to the generosity of many donors, we plan to begin construction of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park in late 2022, which will lead to a one-year campaign in 2023 celebrating 100 years of state parks. from Texas. We will encourage all Texans to explore what our state parks mean to them, today and for the next 100 years.

A century of providing access to places that matter so much seems like a long time, but it’s really only a grandson. I invite all Texans to join in enjoying our parks, visiting and discovering all they have to offer.

If you are feeling moved by your experiences in the park, go out and make sure others can have them, too. As the department likes to say, “Life is better outside.

Anne Brown, former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, is the project leader for the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Foundation and the State Parks Centennial.

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