Texas will soon have a new state park – and it’s a little more than an hour west of Fort Worth.
It won’t open for at least a few more years, but locals are excited about the park’s potential.
A public hearing last week featured Texas Parks and Wildlife employees and attracted a big crowd. Locals had lots of questions.
Funding is needed
The park is tentatively scheduled to open in 2018. The state has already bought the land to create the park. But money is needed to build the infrastructure to open it to the public – and that could happen during the 2015 legislative session.
About the land
The park includes Palo Pinto Creek and Tucker Lake, built in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.
Roam around the park land and you’ll see all sorts of trees – live oak, blackjack oak, Texas oak, post oak, Texas ash, prickly ash, cedar elms, mesquite, cedar and ash juniper, to name a few, according to the city of Strawn.
In the spring, flowers blossom, including bluebonnets, Indian blanket, soft golden aster and bluebells, as well as lots of prickly pear.
Looking for animals? You’ll see deer, turkey, raccoons and fish – including bass, catfish and sunfish.
“Isn’t this pretty?”
Out at the park, John Ferguson is in his element. He's with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and lives in the park. Recently, he toured the park land, including Raptor’s Ridge, a migratory route for falcons, hawks and other birds. The smell of the ridge, the sight of the steep cliffs, the lake and rivers and the moving clouds – the scene overwhelms him.
“I can get emotional about this,” Ferguson said. “It just gives me a great appreciation for being able to live here, in such a beautiful place, not just in the park, but in this state, in this country. A place that allows us the freedom and the opportunity to enjoy peace and nature and beauty. It makes me so happy.”
“Isn’t this pretty?” Ferguson said. “And how many people spend their lives without ever seeing something like this, but here it is. And we will protect it for you, and your friends and family, and for future generations of Texans and visitors to our state.”
Park could give Strawn a big boost
Decades ago, Strawn was a booming ranch community. But as in many rural Texas towns, its young people left for jobs in the bigger cities. Jeff Hinkson’s family has been in Strawn for a century and a half.
Hinkson, who founded the Strawn Chamber of Commerce, said a park of this size could draw up to 150,000 visitors annually from Dallas/Fort Worth, Abilene, Brownwood, Wichita Falls and beyond.
“As our metropolitan areas get more and more congested, I believe you’re going to find more and more people looking for open spaces,” Hinkson said.
Strawn Mayor Tye Jackson says the park will be good not just for nature lovers and birders, but for the local economy, too.
“It’s going to force the town to grow, and become maybe a little more modern than it has been,” Jackson said.
What locals are saying
“This might be the greatest thing in the state of Texas here,” said Shawver Abbott, who’s 74. “I don’t have a clue, but it’ll take time. If people think it’s going to happen overnight, I think they’ll be disappointed. But in time, I think, I think it will be good.”
Barbara McKnight with the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association is excited to have new riding trails.
“I find myself thinking about, ‘from the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam,’ that’s what America is about,” McKnight said. “And this reminds you: You’ve got to get quiet. You’ve got to be still. You’ve got to just let your whole body rest in the moment, and feel, and sense, and float.”
Janis Jones, who teaches music at TCU in Fort Worth, rides, too -- a quarterhorse named Chisholm.
“Gives you time to breathe,” she said. “Get some fresh air, and clear your lungs, clear your mind, helps you face the challenges that life in the big city brings.”
State parks in Texas
It might be a while before you can visit Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, but you can explore dozens of other state parks around Texas. Did you know that Texas is home to more than 90 state parks? Fifteen of them are in or near North Texas. They include Ray Roberts Lake; Cedar Hill; Eisenhower; Cleburne; Dinosaur Valley; Lake Mineral Wells and Cooper Lake. Explore them here.
Cedar Hill State Park is the closest to Dallas/Fort Worth. It has a mountain bike trail. Also, birdwatching is popular. Learn more about Cedar Hill here.
Explore the state parks in the State Park Guide.