Looking Back–Texans for State Parks 2022 Annual Conference
Finally! After two years of postponements and delays, it was great to see everyone at the 2022 Annual Conference held at Fort Parker State Park April 29 and 30!
The event began Friday evening with meet and greet, a light meal and programs by representatives from Friends of Colorado Bend, Friends of San Angelo and Big Bend Ranch State Park. The programs included information about significant events and projects at the parks, as well as an online auction conducted by the Compadres (Big Bend State Park). The online auction was new to most of us and Patrick McKee provide information and resources to help others who may want to add that to their fundraising resources.
Prior to the Friday program the TfSP Board of Directors met to elect officers for the coming year and take care of routine business. Officers are as follows: Kevin Good, President, Tom Rhodes, Vice President, Barry Hutcheson, Treasurer and Sally Scott, Secretary. Other 2022 board members are John Gosdin, Dixie Hoover, Ruth Jordan, Jo Monday, Pedro Riscado, Mark Stine and Offie Walker.
Saturday, we were welcomed with breakfast hosted by the Friends of Fort Parker and a welcome from the outgoing president Mark Stine and Park Superintendent Mike Loftice.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Rodney Franklin, Director of State Parks. He noted that the future of parks is really, really bright and stressed the impact of the public’s support for our state parks by passing the constitutional amendment (often referred to as Proposition 5) which dedicates state sales taxes on sporting goods to state parks and historic sites. The results of this funding can be seen in new staffing, new education programs and the replacement of trucks and other equipment in parks across the state. New parks that will help meet a surging demand for outdoor recreation are also in coming. Construction of facilities at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park is underway, and the park is scheduled to open in 2023. Other sites that have been waiting for development will follow in the coming years. Other park system highlights include plans for the Battleship Texas to be transported to Galveston for $35 million in repairs, a project managed by the Battleship Texas Foundation. Parks and Wildlife is also conducting studies on the feasibility of creating a system of regional trails, including the possibility of managing the 135-mile NorthEast Texas Trail as a State Park.
In the upcoming legislative session TPWD will be focused on the efficient allocation of funding to parks, with increases in funding for staffing to provide adequate services to an increased visitor base a high priority.
Rodney also reminded everyone that in 2023, State Parks will be 100 years old! Plans are underway for various celebrations around the state. Stay tuned for more announcements and how you can join in the fun!
Leading into the celebration of a century of Texas State Parks, TPWD and Texans for State Parks will be partnering to host the Midwest Region of the National Association of State Park Directors in October. State Park leadership teams from Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico state parks will visit the newly rebuilt facilities at Galveston Island SP and see why Brazos Bend is consistently named one of the top State Parks in the nation.
The morning began with a presentation by Brittney Zepeda, State Parks Volunteer Program Manager reviewing some of the highlights of the new Friends Groups MOA, the annual plan and the COOP grants. Brittney provided some details about how groups can obtain the grants, and the types of activities those grants can be used for. She explained that although the grant was a reimbursement process—meaning that funds needed to come out of pocket and then reimbursed with grant dollars, they now offer an advance of funds process for COOP grant recipients that could greatly change the ease of implementation for Friends Groups.
Once again, a highlight of the meeting was the presentation of awards. Each year Texans for State Parks (TfSP) recognizes individuals and organizations for service to Texas State Parks at the TfSP Annual Conference. This year winners from the nominations received prior to the cancellation of the 2020 conference were included. Winners were 2020: Distinguished Ranger, Mike Feaster, Galveston Island State Park; Distinguished Friends Group, Friends of Fort Boggy State Park; Distinguished Volunteer, Alvis & Dawn Hill, Colorado Bend State Park. The 2022 winners were Distinguished Superintendent, Michael Smith, Cleburne State Park; Distinguished Ranger, Jessica DeBoer, Enchanted Rock Natural Area; Distinguished Friends Group, Friends of San Angelo State Park; Distinguished Volunteer, Jim Calvert, Brazos Bend State Park.
Newly elected President Kevin Good closed the conference with an overview of his plans for the coming year including TfSP Board development and training, strengthening relationship with Parks and Wildlife, hosting the Midwest conference in Galveston and working with the Friends for Centennial activities.
Thanks to the Friends of Fort Parker, Park Superintendent and the park staff, as well as the caterers who kept us well fed! The Fort Parker facilities and the nearby Old Fort Parker offered welcoming facilities for the meeting and for those staying overnight!
Watch the TfSP website, https://texansstateparks.org for news and continuing TfSP activities.