Tag Archives: TP&W

‘Yes!’ on park investment

Finally, I’m tellin’ ya — finally! — I get to offer unabashed enthusiastic praise for a Texas legislative policy decision without qualifying it in any fashion.

The Texas House has given final approval for a $1 billion investment in the state park system, seeking to add more parks to the state’s already impressive network of public recreational sites.

It’s not entirely done deal just yet. The Texas Senate has approved it already. It heads for Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. Then it comes to us — you and me — for a final vote this November as an amendment to the Texas Constitution.

I am going to vote enthusiastically for the measure.

“This would create a new golden age for our state parks,” said Luke Metzger, the executive director of Environment Texas. “We have a lot to celebrate. What a great birthday present to give all Texans for the state parks system’s 100th.”

Indeed, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is celebrating the centennial of the state park system.

The Texas Tribune reported: According to a report by Environment Texas last year, Texas lags behind most others states in state parkland: The state ranks 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita, with about 636,000 acres of parkland for a population of over 29 million as of 2019. The report suggests that Texas needs to add 1.4 million acres of state parks by 2030 to meet the needs of its residents.

Texas House approves bills to spend up to $1 billion for more state parks | The Texas Tribune

The Trib also noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state park system became even more popular with Texans, who faced interstate and international travel restrictions.

So … they packed up their gear and headed for our state parks.

My late wife and I were among those Texans who have embraced all that the park system has to offer. By my unofficial count, we visited roughly two-thirds of the state parks during the years we were hauling recreational vehicles behind our pickup.

I am distressed to learn, of course, that the state has lagged behind other states in dedicating resources to state parks. I hope that can change with this investment.

I just want to offer a heartfelt “bravo!” to both legislative chambers for the decision they have made to set aside more land for development into state parks.

We need them … and Texans will use them.


State parks turn 100!

I want to get off my criticism bandwagon for a moment and toss a bouquet at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for celebrating a landmark anniversary.

Its state parks system is turning 100 years old. Texas Highways, the state travel magazine to which I subscribe, noted the anniversary in its latest issue.

My late wife was a huge fan of the state parks system. So am I. We once figured we visited about two-thirds of the state’s 90-plus state parks during the past four decades in Texas. We usually would haul our RV to a site and camp there for a few days, enjoying the varied hiking trails and wildlife that occasionally would visit our campsites.

I do not have a “favorite” state park, given that they all present unique charms. To single one out as a favorite would do an injustice to all the other parks I have visited.

I will say, though, that Mother Neff State Park near Waco — by far! — has the cleanest restrooms and public showers of any we have seen. That’s all I will say about that.

Lord knows I have been critical of Texas government during the nearly 40 years I have lived here. I will sing TP&W’s praises for the state park system it has developed and nurtured for as long as I am able.

Well done, TP&W.


So long, Big Jake

RAY ROBERTS LAKE STATE PARK, Texas – We have taken Big Jake the Pickup on the final excursion we will share with the beast.

Big Jake is headed for somewhere else. My wife and I hope the big ol’ Dodge Ram finds a new home with owners who will love him as much as we do. We expect Big Jake to continue to give the new owns as much satisfaction as he delivered to us for many years.

What you see behind Big Jake is our new travel trailer, the severely downsized version of the recreational vehicle we continue to take on our retirement journey to points hither and yon.

I must acknowledge, though, that hither and yon will be a good bit closer to home than we have taken our previous RV. These fuel prices are killin’ us, as you can imagine.

What is taking Big Jake’s place? We have ordered a Ford Ranger pickup. Ford Motor Company notified us this week the truck has been built per our specs, it’s been inspected, and it is being shipped as I write this brief blog post.

We took Big Jake and our travel trailer to a state park we have visited before. Lake Ray Roberts is just a bit north of Denton, about 60 or so miles from our house in Princeton. It’s a gorgeous park, as are practically all the parks within the Texas Parks & Wildlife system.

I am just posting this blog to let you know that our travel plans are being amended slightly, at least while the fuel prices continue to zoom out of sight. I do hope they can return to something resembling sanity.

As for Big Jake, it’s getting time to say so long to the muscular truck that has taken our previous RVs to both coasts, through the western half of Canada, to the Great Lakes and to more than 30 state parks in Texas. Big Jake served us well.

As for our Ford Ranger, the new vehicle doesn’t yet have a name. I am toying with naming the truck Kemo Sabe. Think for just a moment about the symbolism of the name.

Meanwhile, our retirement journey continues.


Mother Neff would be proud

MOTHER NEFF STATE PARK, Texas — I have spoken glowingly about the Texas state parks system, its amenities and all the recreational opportunties they offer to retirees … such as my wife and me.

Today, I want to take a brief moment to speak about something you might find weird. Too bad. Here goes anyway.

We came to Mother Neff State Park in Coryell County for a brief outing in our new travel trailer. I had to use a restroom. What I saw when I entered was stunning.

The public restroom was immaculate. As in eat-off-the-floor clean, man.

You don’t need to see a picture of the place to get the idea. Just know that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is on the job keeping these public facilities suitable for, um … the public!

I took a moment to thank a park ranger who happened to be nearby. He accepted my thanks with gratitude.

Therefore, I want to proclaim that TP&W is worth the investment Texans are making.


Littering needs strict punishment

LAKE TAWAKONI STATE PARK, Texas — We trudged along a trail beside a true Texas treasure and found a single piece of litter.

It was a beer bottle.

My wife picked it up and we tossed in a nearby Dumpster … which brings me to the point of this brief blog post.

The Dumpster was within easy walking distance of where the dipsh** had walked. Moreover, the bottle was about, oh, 10 or 12 feet off the trail, which tells me the idiot who left it there flung it where I would presume he thought no one would see it.

My wife and I are huge fans of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the state parks it administers for us. We enjoy our state parks system, which we consider to be one of the high points of a state government that quite often gets battered with criticism over bonehead policies.

We have no qualms about the state parks and in infuriates to the maximum degree when we see evidence of others abusing the parks in the manner we discovered when we picked up the beer bottle left behind by the nimrod who walked along the trail.

I think an appropriate sentence for anyone littering in that fashion ought to be a four-figure fine and a life sentence of community service … preferably working on a cleanup crew at our state parks.

Yeah, that’s harsh. It’s just how I feel.


Proud of ‘Ike’s park’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

EISENHOWER STATE PARK, Texas – Every so often I feel the need to extol the virtues of enjoying the great outdoors in our great state.

That urge has overtaken me yet again.

I offer this brief missive aiming to entice fellow North and Northeast Texas to enjoy the state park system that I continue to believe is one of the major accomplishments of our state government which occasionally draws barbs from me.

My wife and I ventured to Eisenhower State Park, just outside of Denison, right on the Red River and in this region the local news media refer to as “Texoma.” This place is a jewel. It’s clean, well-managed, with well-marked hiking and biking trails. We did pick up an empty Coke can on one of our hikes through the park, prompting my wife to wonder out loud how someone who ventures to one of these places to “enjoy nature” could possibly toss an aluminum can into the bushes.

Summer break is coming up for students all across Texas. That means, of course, that demand on these parks will increase dramatically during the summer. Listen up: If you intend to camp at nearby Eisenhower State Park, you’d be wise to book your campsite soon, perhaps even right now!

Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted many of the mandated restrictions brought to us by the COVID pandemic. That doesn’t mean you can ignore safety measures recommended by infectious disease experts, a point that Abbott has sought to make. Texas Parks & Wildlife officials continue to disallow public use of office. TP&W staffers are still masked up and keeping their distance from those of us who venture to the park.

I want to make another point about Eisenhower State Park. It is named in honor of a great American, the nation’s 34th president, Dwight Eisenhower, who was born in a modest home in nearby Denison. Ike went on to do a couple of pretty big things. He helped defeat the 20th century’s most evil tyrant during World War II and then got elected to two terms as president of the United States. He famously warned us during his farewell address in 1960 to guard against the “military-industrial complex,” which even at the time was an amazing admonition from a man who bore the title of general of the Army.

The National Park Service has put together a wonderful exhibit at Ike’s boyhood home. That, too, is worth seeing … along with the state park that bears his name.

Take my word for it: spending time away from the hubbub and hassle of today’s news provides great therapy for the soul. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has answered that need with this – and many other – wonderful parks.

NOTE: This blog post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

Happy Trails, Part 184: Finding a hidden jewel

I really enjoy discovering places I didn’t know existed.

Fairfield Lake, just about 100 miles south of Dallas, is our latest discovery.

Texas Parks & Wildlife runs a state park here. Our GPS told us we had “arrived” at our destination, but we had to travel another 10 miles or so before we stumbled upon the park headquarters building.

We got to our RV campsite. We hooked up our RV. We had something to eat. Then we walked to edge of the lake. Holy smokes, man! This place is beautiful.

Our retirement journey has taken us to many places around the country. This ranks up there with the best of ’em. Just think, too, that it’s on the edge of our neighborhood! Who knew? Not me, kids.

Fairfield Lake State Park opened in 1976 after Texas Power & Light built a dam to store water to cool a power plant nearby. The lake comprises 1,460 acres in Freestone County.

Our goal is see every state park in our TP&W system of parks. We have a long way to go, having visited only about 25 or so out of the state’s system of more than 90 parks. We might be delayed in getting to all of the sites. Why is that?

Because of something my wife told me: “This is one park I definitely could come back to if we just wanted to get away for a few days.” There you go. We can’t be everywhere all at once.

It’s a gorgeous place. I’m all in.

Littering provokes militancy

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — I am married to an anti-littering militant.

I have known it for the nearly five decades of our married life, but I saw it on full display on a morning walk along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We sauntered onto the beach from our fifth wheel. Immediately, she became incensed at what she saw … and what she began to collect on our stroll. I figure we must have picked up close to a 40 pounds of trash on our walk of several hundred yards.

I am proud of her, as you might surmise.

The point she made struck home with me. Why come to the great outdoors, enjoy nature and then soil it with this kind of trash? We understand fully, though, that a lot of trash washes ashore from offshore — from seagoing vessels and from the oil platforms one can see from the beach.

In the early 1980s, the General Land Office launched its anti-littering campaign, labeling it “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The phrase over time has been perverted to connote some sort of macho statement about Texas and Texans. However, it means simply that we shouldn’t toss litter onto our landscape.

I get it, and I assure you my bride certainly gets it.

Let me be clear on this matter: We are proud supporters of our state parks. We intend to see them all before we no longer are able to haul our fifth wheel around our immense state. I also am proud of the way Texas Parks & Wildlife cares for our parks. TP&W does a stellar job of keeping them well-groomed, which makes them so attractive to us.

It’s no one’s fault here at Sea Rim State Park that the beach is littered with too much trash. The fault lies with the nimrods who come here, as my wife says, to “enjoy nature” only to sully it with their trash. The fault also lies with the seagoing vessel crews and the dipsticks who work on those platform way out there on the horizon.

To those who aren’t as careful as they should be about disposing of their trash, be forewarned: Don’t mess with Mrs. Kanelis.

Cabin fever is overpowering

I am making an admission with this blog post. It is that the coronavirus pandemic has afflicted me with a serious case of cabin fever.

The image with this post is of the fifth wheel my wife and I own, along with the pickup. The picture was snapped a year ago while we were parked for a couple of nights at San Angelo State Park.

But … here’s the deal: Texas has closed all its state parks. That means we cannot take our recreational vehicle for a trip to any of them. Nothing is open. The Parks & Wildlife Department shut ’em all down. It’s only temporary.

However, you have to understand something about my wife and me. We are ardent supporters of our state park system. We purchase a state park pass each year to waive our entrance fee into any of the parks throughout our state.

We can’t use it. TP&W has extended the park pass for two months past its expiration date, and we’re grateful for that.

In the meantime we’re stuck at home. That RV is parked about three miles away. Our truck is in our driveway. We don’t even drive the truck much, given that Gov. Greg Abbott and the city of Princeton have closed practically all outdoor activities, most businesses.

Cabin fever is the pits, man. Although it’s surely not nearly as perilous as the fever associated with COVID-19. Accordingly, I am grateful that our family has been spared the disease, although we hear from family members that they’re going stir crazy, too. We feel their pain.

The stay at home directive has shut down anything we can do with the RV. A private RV park is out of the question as well, as nothing in any community we would want to visit is open to visitors.

Do you get my drift? We are ready for the “social distancing” we’re all observing will have the desired effect and will reduce the infection rate sufficiently to allow Gov. Abbott and other officials to give us the “all clear.”

When we hear it, we’re likely to hit the road open as soon as is humanly possible.

Cabin fever is the pits.

Parking It, Part 2: Make way for the flames

AMARILLO, Texas — We had every intention this morning of parking our fifth wheel RV at Copper Breaks State Park just south of Quanah, in Hardeman County.

Then something got in the way.

Fire, man! Flames! Lots of ’em.

We knew about the fire that had broken out. We called the state park office to inquire about any fire danger. That was four days ago. The ranger said the park was open “at this moment.” There was no imminent fire danger, she said, “right now. But you would do well to call us as you get closer to your departure date.”

Deal. Then I forgot to call ahead before we set out from Collin County.

About an hour or so on the road, the phone rang in the truck. Texas Parks & Wildlife headquarters in Austin was on the other end of the call. “I’m so sorry to tell you but Copper Breaks is not accepting any arrivals today” because of the fire danger. She asked if we had any alternate preferences. I mentioned Lake Arrowhead State Park near Jolly. “Hold on, I’ll get back to you,” she said.

Lake Arrowhead had limited availability; only water sites were left. We decided to come all the way to Amarillo.

The point of this blog, though, is to say a good word about TP&W’s alertness, that the agency was able to get in touch with us and inform us of the danger in plenty of time.

You might know already that I am a giant fan of the Texas state park system. We do all we can to support it financially. We enjoy the amenities. The parks are well-groomed. They are customer friendly.

TP&W also is willing to keep a sharp eye out for those of us who forget to do their due diligence before hitting the road.