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Oct. 22, 2009
New Game Warden Training Center Construction On Track
AUSTIN, Texas — Phase one of construction on a new $20 million Texas Game Warden Training Center in Hamilton County is proceeding on schedule and on budget and is set to be completed by the end of December.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials say the new facilities were needed to replace aging, outdated facilities and to better meet current and future needs in training cadets to meet the expanded role of modern game wardens.
For more than 30 years, game warden cadets trained in a converted warehouse on 6.2 acres in central Austin or at a patchwork of borrowed facilities around the state. That changed in fall 2008 when the 54th Texas Game Warden Academy cadet class began training on a 220-acre property in Hamilton County.
The first phase of construction now nearing completion at the new site includes a new education building, administration building, gymnasium, a remodeling of the exterior of the dining hall, the installation of site utilities, the construction of roads, parking and landscaping.
Funds are currently being raised for the final phase of construction, which will include the installation of a pool to practice water rescues, a maintenance building, a firing range, a course for operating emergency vehicles and a helicopter pad, as well as the remodeling of eight other buildings and the dining hall kitchen. (See complete plans online.)
The new facilities will allow cadets to get out of the classroom and train in the sort of environment that they will one day be working in, said Major Danny Shaw, director of training at the academy.
"We needed a new training center because the old warehouse didn’t lend us the ability to do the training we had to do," he said. "We can do ATV training here, we can do 4-wheel drive vehicle training, and scenario-based training, like checking up on a group of dove hunters or duck hunters, or somebody fishing. It affords us the opportunity to realistically set up this scenario-based training just outside the classroom door."
The property was donated by the nonprofit Police Activities League, and the project was envisioned from the beginning as a public-private partnership.
The Texas Legislature authorized an initial infusion of $3.6 million from the sale of the Austin property to begin construction on 39,000 square feet of instructional, administrative and residential facilities. Along with the state’s initial investment, private donors have so far given about $6.4 million, altogether providing about half the estimated $20 million that will be required to complete construction of facilities that will be home to 48 cadets and 16 instructors at a time.
"Every day, every night, for more than a century, Texas game wardens have epitomized community-based conservation law enforcement across our state," said Peter Holt, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. "They put their lives on the line, take educational messages to schools, save lives during hurricanes and floods, and do it all with a positive, can-do outlook. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price. Now, with this training center, game wardens could use some help. We hope the people of Texas will respond with donations to help us meet our fundraising goal."
Since 1895, Texas game wardens have built a reputation as "off-the-pavement" peace officers with a heritage second only to the legendary Texas Rangers. Sixteen have died in the line of duty.
That tradition of service is carried on today by more than 500 men and women who reflect the diversity of the people of Texas. They come from small towns and some of the nation’s largest urban areas. Many have degrees in criminal justice or wildlife management or biology. Others studied the humanities, and worked as bankers and graphic designers, city cops and schoolteachers, before gaining entrance to the Game Warden Academy.
Something they all have in common is their dedication and desire to serve the people of Texas, and to help conserve the state’s natural and cultural resources.
Only about 10 percent of applicants to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement training program make the cut each year. Those who are accepted undergo the most rigorous training of any peace officer in Texas, and are widely acclaimed as some of the best-trained and best-educated conservation law enforcement officers in the nation. It’s a program with an international reputation.
Major donors to the Texas Game Warden Training Center include William P. Clements, Lee M. Bass, TXU, T.D. Friedkin, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, Edwin L. Cox, Walter Umphrey and the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation.
The public can see maps, plans, and other information about the new training center, including how to make a tax-deductible donation to support construction of the training center, at the Texas Game Warden Training Center Web site.
Editors: News photos, a map graphic showing proposed facilities and artist’s drawings of various buildings are available for news media in the Game Warden Training Center News Roundup on the TPWD Web site.
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