New Parks on the Way
Recent purchases will add nearly 25,000 acres to TPWD system.
By Rob McCorkle
Despite 2011’s struggles with drought, heat and wildfires and a resulting decline in visitation and revenue, state parks will look back at the past 12 months as a landmark time for park acquisition. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired property that opens nearly 25,000 acres in West Texas, North Texas and the Hill Country to future recreational use and helps conserve the state’s dwindling precious natural and cultural resources.
In fact, you have to go back to 1993 — to the purchase of property for Government Canyon State Natural Area near San Antonio — to find the last time significant acreage was added to the state parks roster of 93 sites.
In December 2010, TPWD took possession of the 18,000-acre Devils River Ranch in Val Verde County, purchased with $10 million in private donations and $4 million in public funds dedicated to land acquisition. The stunning piece of riverfront property, overlooking the spot where the wild river enters Lake Amistad, will be added to the existing Devils River State Natural Area property upriver. The agency has formed a Devils River Working Group that includes local ranch owners, conservation organizations and other stakeholders to come up with a public use plan and management strategy.
Less than a month into the new year, the Albert and Bessie Kronkosky Foundation donated the 3,800-acre 3K Ranch on Texas Highway 46 between Boerne and Pipe Creek in Bandera County for use as a future state park. The ranch possesses extraordinary endangered species habitat, mostly for the golden-cheeked warbler, and has stands of relic bigtooth maples in the canyons like those found at Lost Maples State Natural Area.
Some park staff have moved onto the property, and biologists continue to conduct baseline studies of the ranch’s rich biological diversity. The ranch complex, which sits 8 miles southwest of Boerne, includes a main residence, ranch manager’s residence, three garages and two barns. TPWD is reviewing options to determine whether the property will carry a state park or state natural area designation.
In October, TPWD closed on a much-anticipated deal that will result in the opening of a 3,300-acre state park in North Texas near the town of Strawn. The three contiguous tracts of land straddle the Palo Pinto and Stephens county line about 70 miles west of Fort Worth. The property includes two miles of frontage on the north fork of Palo Pinto Creek, an 80-acre lake, stunning hilltop vistas, riparian forest and upland woods.
Some of the habitat is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. The Nature Conservancy and TPWD found the state-park-worthy property after several years of searching following the 2008 sale of Eagle Mountain Lake property near Fort Worth. The proceeds from the Eagle Mountain Lake sale are being used for the new purchase. It is expected to take awhile for the park to open because of limited financial resources to operate the site.
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