In earlier reports in Vogel Talks RV, I reported that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) was proceeding with the acquisition of 3,331 acres in Palo Pinto and Stephens Counties for future development and operation as a new state park in north central Texas.
The newest state park, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, is a little more than an hour west of Fort Worth, in the rolling woodland near the picturesque community of Strawn, population 700.
The new park offers a great diversity of topography, as well as a great variety of plants and wildlife.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired the property for the park in October 2011, using funds from the sale of Eagle Mountain Lake State Park in Fort Worth a few years earlier. Since the sale of that property the Parks & Wildlife Department had been looking for a suitable location within easy driving distance of Fort Worth, and was fortunate that this property became available.
It was acquired with assistance from the Nature Conservancy. The state purchased the property for the price of 7.14 million dollars, or about $2,142 per acre.
Texans have yet to see the new park.
The property is currently completely undeveloped. This site was formerly a ranch owned by the Copeland family, and will need extensive work before it can be formally opened to the public.
Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say they need more money to add trails, campsites, and other facilities before they can open the park.
The Palo Pinto park is one of four state parks bought but never opened for the lack of funding. Besides an estimated $30 million to finish all four parks, it also would take about $1.5 million each year to operate them.
The mountains are lined with a dense forest of live oaks, post oaks, blackjack oaks, mesquite, and cedar elms. The trails will draw hikers who currently go to the Hill Country or the Arbuckle Mountains in southwest Oklahoma.
The city of Strawn is also counting on the park, negotiating to locate the front gate just west of town and draw tourists to a region halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene now known mostly for the Thurber ghost town, chicken-fried steak cafes, and landmarks along the old Bankhead Highway cross-country motoring route.
A public hearing on the park last week attracted a big crowd, and locals had lots of questions about the 4,400-acre Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, reports KERA-TV.
After hearing two hours of questions from his neighbors and explanations by Texas Parks and Wildlife employees, 74-year-old Shawver Abbott was pretty enthusiastic.
“This might be the greatest thing in the state of Texas here,” Abbott said.
“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.”
Good, not just for nature lovers and birders, but for the local economy too, says Strawn Mayor Tye Jackson.
“It’s going to force the town to grow,” Jackson said.
“And become maybe a little more modern than it has been.”
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 here 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.
Out at the park itself, John Ferguson is in his element. He’s with the state Parks Division and lives in the park. We get to Raptors 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, the moving clouds overwhelm him.
The park won’t be open for a few years, but in the meantime, the public can already enjoy pre-approved star-gazing nights and the occasional chance to ride on a horse on new trails.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD)
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas and provides hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
From mile-high mountains, canyons, and pine forests, to Hill Country rivers and the legendary Gulf Coast, Texas has over 90 state parks that offer hiking and biking trails, canoeing and kayaking, places to fish, nature centers, and much more.
Texas Spoken Friendly
I am humbled by the forces of nature that continuously mold our great state of Texas into a beautiful landscape complete with geological diversity, flora and fauna. It is my goal as a photographer to capture that natural beauty and share it with others.
—Chase A. Fountain