The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Nature Conservancy have identified a property in Palo Pinto and Stephens Counties near the town of Strawn as a potential site for a new state park.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its meeting today gave its approval for TPWD to take the steps necessary to acquire approximately 3,300 acres for future development and operation as a new state park in north Texas. TPWD plans to complete the acquisition in September.
TPWD and the Nature Conservancy have spent the last few years exploring land in Johnson, Bosque, Erath, Hood, Parker, Palo Pinto and Tarrant counties, seeking a suitable site for a new Texas state park. The identified property, which straddles the Stephens and Palo Pinto county line, consists of three contiguous tracts composed of the Parsons and Copeland ranches, and a 40-acre in-holding.
Funds for the purchase come from the sale in 2008 of the former Eagle Mountain Lake State Park property for $9.2 million made possible by an array of private and public donors, with the explicit understanding, supported by Gov. Rick Perry and area legislators, that the proceeds would be used to acquire another state park within 90 miles of downtown Fort Worth.
The department proposes to spend about $7.6 million to acquire the property that sits just a few miles north of Interstate 20, about 70 miles from downtown Fort Worth. The remainder of the $9.2 million from the sale of Eagle Mountain Lake State Park will be held in a dedicated sub-account for future park land acquisition and/or improvements.
TPWD recently received approval from the Legislative Budget Board to use the Eagle Mountain property sales proceeds to purchase land for a new north Texas state park. A public input meeting was held in Strawn on Aug. 23.
TPWD and TNC have been working closely with landowners and local officials, including the mayor of Strawn, to ensure public support for the project. A cooperative agreement is in the works to include the use of 81-acre Tucker Lake in the proposed state park.
“The proposed future state park site fronts two miles on the north fork of Palo Pinto Creek in the Cross Timbers region, and contains diverse topography and extraordinary conservation and recreation potential,” says TPW Commission chairman Peter Holt. “The property’s rich natural resources – ranging from hilltop vistas to riparian forest – represent an excellent opportunity to provide a wilderness experience for future park-goers. In addition, the land is home to endangered species, such as the golden-cheeked warbler.”
If TPWD acquires the property, it will take some time to complete a master plan that would guide public use and development of the site, according to TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith.
“At this time, the agency has limited resources to staff or operate the state park,” Smith says. “Nonetheless, the acquisition is financially and strategically smart, as it secures land when prices are relatively low for future recreational use near a high-growth population center. It also fulfills a promise to the people of Fort Worth. Regardless of when the park is opened, it represents an investment that will pay recreational and conservation dividends for generations to come.”