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By Editor Louie Bond

For those who live along the banks of the Blanco River in Hays County, 2015 will be a year they’ll never forget. After endless drought, the rain came. After a few sweet spring drenches, our gratitude for water turned to a plea for it to stop. During the dark and silent early morning hours of May 24, the rain came all at once, in one place — the town of Blanco, the headwaters of the Blanco River, just north of Wimberley — at least 10 inches in a couple of hours. Millions of gallons rolled down the already soaked earth and gathered into a raging torrent, a virtual riverine tsunami, sweeping away everything along its path.

The phone rang early and often at my house, 10 miles from danger. We quickly became aware that our rainy night of peaceful sleep had been a living nightmare for many of our friends.  With phone lines and Internet connectivity down in the ravaged area, we wondered who had survived and who had lost everything but their lives. It took agonizing days to find out, and the news was horrific. Our friends had been saved from the quick rise of the raging river, from their perches clinging to rooftops, after abandoning cars and walking cross-country in a black landscape that no longer felt familiar.

Worst of all, none of us could stop thinking about the three families in one home swept away that night. We are still haunted by the specter of those missing children, their final moments witnessed and heard by those who lived along the once-tranquil Blanco. Splintered 500-year-old cypress trees line the banks with a solemn salute to those lost.

In October, Jonathan McComb of Corpus Christi, who survived the flood but lost his family and friends, joined Wimberley residents at a Blanco River blessing. Participants tossed roses into the water in memoriam, then took park in a New Orleans-style line dance, looking forward to happier times.

While Memorial Day has become synonymous with flooding in Central Texas, Labor Day is now associated with wildfire. For the second time in four years, the Bastrop area was hit with raging infernos, this time affecting Buescher State Park. As in Wimberley, restoration and reforestation are at the forefront in the Lost Pines. As Texans, we understand the privilege of living in these little bits of heaven, and we have a responsibility to preserve them.

That’s why we end 2015 with the happy anticipation of a bright future for our Texas state parks. How would our grandchildren truly understand their heritage if forward-thinking Texans hadn’t stepped up decades ago to preserve and protect places like Enchanted Rock, the World Birding Centers and Big Bend? The foresight and hard work of Bob Armstrong (featured in this month’s Legend, Lore & Legacy) and other TPWD partners can still be felt today, as catastrophic weather and encroaching development threaten these natural treasures.

In honor of these wondrous bits of paradise, 2016 is officially named The Year of State Parks here at Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Each month we will feature an iconic park on the cover and as the lead story, accompanied by a sometimes surprising list of state parks that offer your favorite activity, whether that’s hiking, fishing or paddling.

Please join us as we discover new parks to explore and share stories about your old favorites. We’d love to hear about your memories of dancing at Garner and hiking the Lighthouse trail at Palo Duro, boogie-boarding at coastal parks and hooking the big one at a state park lake.

Texas is too big to cover it all in one year, but these Texans are foolish/brave enough to try. Since we don’t want to spoil the surprise, we’ll just say our view of the January/February issue is a spectacular one. We can’t wait to share it with you!

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