TPWD Buys North Texas Land For Future State Park
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department closed on the purchase of 3,333 acres of Cross Timbers region ranch land from several different owners late last week. TPWD paid $7.14 million for the property that straddles the Palo Pinto and Stephens county line near the town of Strawn. TPWD and the Nature Conservancy identified the property that sits just a few miles north of Interstate 20 for a future state park site after spending the last few years exploring land in Johnson, Bosque, Erath, Hood, Parker, Palo Pinto and Tarrant counties. The state purchased three contiguous tracts composed of two ranches, and a 42-acre in-holding, located roughly an hour’s drive west of downtown Fort Worth. Funds for the purchase come from the $9.2 million netted from sale in 2008 of the former Eagle Mountain Lake State Park, a sale made possible by an array of private and public donors. The transaction was done 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 Legislative Budget Board also had signed off on the use of the Eagle Mountain property sales proceeds to purchase land for a new north Texas state park. “By any measure, this property was worth the wait,” says TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith. “We are excited about its diversity and the many recreational opportunities it will ultimately provide to the citizens and park enthusiasts of North Texas. The acquisition of the new park site never would have happened without the extraordinary generosity of so many private and public donors from the Ft. Worth area. All of us who care about the future of our state parks owe these entities a great debt of gratitude.” 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 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. Smith has indicated that it will take some time to complete a master plan to guide public use and development of the site, which due to limited resources to staff and operate the park, might take several years to open. When the gates of Texas’ 94th state park do swing open, Carter believes the state’s investment “will pay recreational and conservation dividends for generations to come.” The future state park property is rich in natural resources, fronting two miles on the north fork of Palo Pinto Creek and consisting of diverse topography ranging from hilltop vistas to riparian forests. The land is home to plentiful wildlife, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.