State Parks for All
IN TEXAS, our connection to the land has helped define our cultural identity. State parks protect our wild places and most iconic landscapes, and they provide us with some of our best opportunities to deepen that connection to the land.
In our state parks, we can swim in a river, climb a mountain, explore a cave, fish in a lake, find a shady spot to rest under a live oak or loblolly pine, enjoy a picnic with family, find out what’s down a trail, sit around a campfire and lay down our heads at night under a Texas sky.
Texas has so much to offer. Last year, in a visit to West Texas, my wife and I did a morning hike in the mountain air at Davis Mountains State Park and later drove down the hill to Balmorhea to swim in that beautiful spring-fed pool. As the new executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, I’m looking forward to stewarding these parks and all the special places we have in our state park system.
Our state parks are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, an occasion that invites us to appreciate the many benefits our parks provide to us.
We are taking time this year to look back at what’s happened up to this point. Parks like Garner, Longhorn Cavern, Palo Duro Canyon and Caddo Lake have been treasured parts of the lives of Texans for generations. We’re also looking ahead, and we’re excited about what the next 100 years will bring. The opening of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, the first new state park in Texas in 15 years, is a cause for celebration.
In 1923, Gov. Pat Neff laid out a vision for Texas. He described a state dotted with parks, camping places and recreational centers held in sacred trust for the public good, now and forever.
From those humble beginnings, we have built a vast network of natural and cultural riches. Today, our 89 state parks span roughly 640,000 acres and welcome nearly 10 million visitors each year, helping our state’s economy thrive, especially in rural communities.
As more Texans seek outdoor experiences, it is going to be increasingly important to ensure that lands and waters are set aside and managed for fish, wildlife and recreation. Our state is growing. Texas may have another 25 million people by the year 2050. A good percentage of them are going to want access to recreational opportunities, whether that be camping, hiking, boating or fishing. We need to find a way to provide that.
We are actively working to open new parks. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission has set a goal of opening a park every two to three years, which means natural treasures will become available in the coming years in places such as the Hill Country, Big Bend and Texas coast. We hope our yearlong centennial celebration will engage all Texans. We want to welcome new and diverse audiences, inviting everyone to visit and celebrate state parks. We want to inspire new visitors to experience the beauty and cultural riches of our parks, and to invite their families and friends.
Anyone can enjoy our parks — they are there for you. They are a gateway to our natural world, whether you’re embarking on a multi-day camping trip, taking a morning walk on our trails or having a family picnic in a breathtaking space.
We want Texans to make memories in our state parks and, along the way, strengthen their connection to our treasured land.
Celebrating 100 Years of our State Parks can be delivered straight to your mailbox with a new annual subscription to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Enjoy 10 issues PLUS this bonus as our gift to you. Subscribe today!