After a day of hiking, kayaking, playing on the playgrounds, and making up campfire stories, the two kids were passed out under the stars, in the bed of the truck, in no time at all. We did our version of camping this past weekend at Ray Roberts Lake State Park, about a one hour drive northwest of Downtown Dallas. This park may not be “my park”, but I’m determined to visit many more in the area to find the park I connect to the most and title it mine for the “Find Your Park” initiative.
For the National Park Service’s centennial year celebration, they are rolling out a new campaign to “reintroduce the national parks and the work of the National Park Service to a new generation of Americans, inviting them to visit and get involved.” They hope to engage people of every age group and ethnicity to visit a park and develop a personal connection to nature. When you do, make sure to share your outdoor experiences on social media using #FindYourPark.
In Texas, there are thirteen National Parks including Padre National Seashore, Guadalupe Mountains and on my bucket list Big Bend. To get a taste of the breathtaking scenery and unique wildlife found at Big Bend, follow them on social media. You will soon join me in adding Big Bend to your own list. But it’s not checked yet due to the dreaded eight or nine hour drive. Luckily, #FindYourPark includes all outdoor areas.
Although the campaign is focused on the 401 National Parks, it was encouraging to hear Christy Goldfuss, who leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality, speak about the importance of people finding any park of their own. Goldfuss joined famous authors, leaders from National Geographic Education and others at the Children and Nature Network Conference in Austin held last week. Goldfuss said, “How do we really instill in the American public a continued connection to America’s National Parks? Which is not just just about the National Parks, because for the American public it could be National Forest, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands, it could be a state forest or city park…” In Dallas, this is important to us, because most National Parks are hours away, but we have a plethora of city and state parks within a short distance from the skyscrapers of downtown.
Goldfuss recited some statistics such as fewer than 14 percent of park visitors are under 40 and the number one reason (as determined by a Nature Conservancy poll) why kids didn’t spend more time outside was discomfort from heat and bugs. Here in the Dallas area, the time to get outside is now. The air on Saturday night was cool, breezy with no mosquitoes. The perfect hiking and camping weather, yet the park wasn’t packed.
Which park is your park in the area? There are many to choose from. Find a Texas State Park (SP) close by, such as the urban oasis known for a refreshing swim in Joe Pool Lake at Cedar Hill SP (20 minutes south east from downtown), Lake Tawakoni SP (one hour northwest of downtown), Purtis Creek SP (one hour 20 minutes southeast of downtown) and one of my favorites with real dinosaur tracts you can walk in, Dinosaur Valley SP (one hour 45 minutes southwest of downtown).
If you’re not up for the longer drive, visit one of the 381 Dallas City Parks totaling over 23,242 acres of developed and undeveloped parkland. On dallasparks.org they have an incredibly handy interactive map of every park, dog park, splash pad and trail by district. Find that hidden park located right around the corner from you.
There are even more trails listed on the Dallas County website (dallascounty.org) that connect neighborhoods and major landmarks. Browse the list of over 30 trails such as the popular White Rock Lake Trail and lesser known 3.5 mile Bachman Lake Trail located in Northwest Dallas.
Finally, maybe your park is our own Katy Trail in the heart of Dallas. The 3.5 urban trail is a very popular destination for residents and tourists. Although we all may love our trail I encourage you to check out and support the hundreds or other opportunities in the area to #FindYourPark. Without exploring the others you’ll never know what you, your friends, and family could be missing out on. This past weekend was the first time my nephews heard coyote’s call, something a bit more difficult to hear within city limits.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.