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Nov. 5, 2009
Land Deal to Double Size of Village Creek State Park
AUSTIN, Texas — Village Creek State Park in southeast Texas will more than double in size as a result of action taken Thursday by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission directing the acquisition of roughly 1,420 acres of undeveloped timber land owned by The Conservation Fund.
At its regular meeting in Austin, the commission approved the bargain sale purchase of the Hardin County tract that abuts the southern boundary of the 1,090-acre state park near Lumberton. The long sought-after acreage will protect critical habitat from urban encroachment and enhance Village Creek State Park’s connection to the Big Thicket National Preserve’s Village Creek and Neches River Corridor units.
"This is an exciting acquisition that will more than double the size of the park and provide for a better visitor experience," said Texas State Parks Director Walt Dabney. "It’s a perfect example of how a public-private partnership can work to benefit the environment and all Texans."
Village Creek State Park, which opened in 1994, is blessed with a diverse habitat that includes longleaf pine uplands, wetlands and cypress swamps, as well as two miles of valuable creek frontage. Sixty-nine-mile long Village Creek is recognized as one of the last free-flowing streams in East Texas and is home to rare fish and mussels. TPWD has been working for some time with the Fund to acquire the additional acreage to protect the park from encroaching development on its fringes resulting from the City of Lumberton’s accelerating growth.
The acquisition brings several major benefits. It will expand outdoor recreational opportunities for park visitors, protect important habitat for plants and animals, and for the first time, provide state park personnel with vehicle access to the eastern third of the existing state park. TPWD has an agreement with the National Park Service that will allow cooperation to explore additional public access to Village Creek through Big Thicket Preserve property adjacent to the 1,420-acre tract. Current logging roads would be used for park trails.
The Conservation Fund, through a creative combination of public and private grant funding, was able to offer the additional acreage to TPWD at about one-quarter of its market value. Andy Jones, Texas director of The Conservation Fund, praised the cooperative effort.
"I started my career at Texas Parks and Wildlife and working with the department again is like a homecoming for me," Jones said. "It is an honor to work with their dedicated and very professional staff to protect this key property for future generations."
The Conservation Fund is the nation’s foremost environmental nonprofit dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy for current and future generations. Seeking innovative conservation solutions for the 21st century, the Fund works to integrate economic and environmental goals. Since its founding in 1985, the Fund has helped its partners safeguard wildlife habitat, working landscapes, community "greenspace" and historic sites totaling more than 6 million acres.
Village Creek State Park, located about 10 miles north of Beaumont, is back in full operation after suffering considerable damage from Hurricanes Rita and Ike. Unique in the state park system, Village Creek preserves a small slice of the 96,000-acre Big Thicket, known as the "biological crossroads of North America, due to its incredible ecological diversity. The park draws tens of thousands of visitors annually to camp, hike, fish, mountain bike, canoe and view wildlife that includes more than 200 species of birds.
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