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|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2008-06-02                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
June 2, 2008
Texas State Parks 'Getting Better All the Time'
Improvements Reflect Support From Voters, Legislature
AUSTIN, Texas -- With gasoline and airfare prices soaring, many families may be planning summer vacations closer to home this year. One high-value, low-cost option is Texas State Parks, which are "getting better all the time" thanks to increased funding provided by state lawmakers and voters.
The 80th Texas Legislature passed House Bills 1 and 12, providing an additional $25.6 million for state park operations during the 2008-09 biennium. Lawmakers also appropriated roughly $69 million in bond authority to fund state park major repairs, including $17 million under Proposition 8 and a little over $52 million in new bond authority from Proposition 4.
Last November, voters approved Proposition 4, which allocates $25 million to dry-berth the Battleship Texas to ensure its long-term preservation and another $27 million for major infrastructure repairs at state parks across Texas. After bonds are approved and sold this summer, design and construction contracts will be let this fall, and major repair work will start in 2009.
Already, more than 200 new state park employee positions have been filled or advertised. Repairs of long-neglected facilities have begun. Campgrounds that closed two years ago due to limited funds have reopened, and days and hours of park operations have been extended. Park visitors are not only noticing better maintained facilities, but they're also seeing expanded interpretive programming such as ranger talks and school visits, plus better customer service.
"All Texans owe a debt of thanks to our governor and legislature for investing in our state park system," said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. "Research shows this is a wise investment that pays returns in many ways. State parks are economic engines that draw tourism dollars to host communities. They protect priceless natural and cultural resources, serve as outdoor classrooms for schools and youth groups, and provide a nearby, low-cost way for urban families to reconnect with nature and the outdoors. With the support of our elected leaders, we intend to build on the wonderful new beginning taking place this year and create the world-class park system Texas needs and deserves."
University research shows state spending on parks pays economic returns. Texas A&M University researchers studied 80 Texas state parks and in 2005 reported that the 80 parks studied generated an estimated total of $793 million in retail sales, had a $456 million impact on residents' income and created roughly 11,928 jobs. The Texas Coalition for Conservation, a nonprofit umbrella group formed to support parks and natural resource conservation, commissioned the research to determine the economic value of state parks.* For cost reasons, only 80 state parks were studied. There are currently 93 state parks in Texas.
The A&M research also showed state parks draw outside visitor dollars into host counties. Researchers analyzed expenditures of park visitors from outside host counties, excluding spending by local residents and "casual" state park visitors attracted to the community for other reasons. In almost every case, benefits to the community outweighed state costs to operate the park. The complete university report is on the TPWD Web site.
The department has created an online Texas State Parks Getting Better news roundup detailing how increased funding is benefiting visitors at individual state parks across Texas. The roundup lists information on parks grouped near major cities, and also features a clickable map grouping parks by region. In addition to news resources, TPWD has been sharing the parks "getting better" story through magazine ads, Passport to Texas radio episodes, video productions and a new State of Parks Web portal that bundles all related materials for easy access.
In West Texas, one example that highlights the value of increased funding is Big Bend Ranch State Park, where dozens of new campsites in remote, scenic locations represent a major expansion of public access to the majestic backcountry of Texas' largest state park. Expanded staffing with four new employee positions is what's making the new public opportunities possible. The park is hiring two new park peace officers to help with everything from search and rescue to leading interpretive tours to protecting natural and cultural resources. The park is also hiring two new part-time maintenance assistants to help maintain trails and facilities for the public.
In Northeast Texas, Caddo Lake State Park has hired a new interpretive specialist to help tell the park story to the public. This means expanded guided tours and talks, as well as more outreach to area schools and community groups. In the past, park host volunteers led guided tours every weekend, but typically on the same topic.
The new position will make possible new programs every weekend, covering topics ranging from park history, such as the site's Civilian Conservation Corps 1930s-era heritage to birding tours to see the rich avian species that reside in or migrate through the park's cypress-tupelo woodland wetlands. New minor repair funding is also improving the visitor experience, making things safer and more enjoyable. This spring, the park replaced all water spigots and put in new metal risers in its Mill Pond Campground. The staff also replaced all the campsite tent pads with new timbers and raised platforms-a big improvement, since the old tent pads were close to 30 years old.
In Southeast Texas, Brazos Bend State Park is adding a new park ranger dedicated to natural resource management and another resource manager/park peace officer. Besides improving safety and security, this will allow a park that has had to rely heavily on volunteer labor and focus on recreation basics like clean restrooms to also fulfill its conservation mission.
"We've always been pretty good about the recreational components of the park, but our natural resources have suffered on some levels as a result of limited staffing," said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Jones. "We have a fragment of coastal prairie that's important, since less than one percent of this type of prairie habitat is left in North America. People understand preserving documents and buildings because of historical significance, but we tend to overlook that prairies have significance too and they're all but gone."
In Northwest Texas, Caprock Canyons State Park is following up on the grand opening of its new 4,400 square-foot visitor center last fall by using increased funding to remodel an administrative office into an overnight cabin and the old headquarters building into a 600-square-foot "discovery center." The new overnight cabin will open this summer, and the discovery center is open now on weekends, when a park interpreter hosts children's activities.
"It's been great to have the families in there and see the kids and parents learning things," says park Superintendent Deanna Oberheu.
In North Texas, Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway has reopened miles of flood-damaged trails and starting major renovations thanks to increased funding. This year, the park will repair campsites and a rundown boat ramp, add an automated front gate for extra security, and repair flood damage along the 20-mile "Rails to Trails" hike-and-bike trail that extends to nearby Weatherford. Additional operating funds will increase part time staff in the office and extend the park's operating hours to better serve visitors. The park also has a valuable partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Correction Corp of America program, using inmate labor to improve the park. "We received increased funding of $15,000 to help equip prison crews with materials such as fence supplies, trailers and tools," said Jody Lee, park superintendent.
In Central Texas, Bastrop and Buescher State Parks are improving security, enhancing visitor tours and interpretation and planning major repairs to historic buildings. Bastrop State Park has a new park peace officer position, which means more proactive visitor security and patrols instead of reacting to situations as they arise. Buescher State Park has a new site manager. The new positions will free other employees to focus more on interpretation, telling the park story to the public.
"Along with providing evening slideshows, the park interpreter will coordinate volunteers to assist with trail work, tree planting, maintenance duties and interpretive roles," said Todd McClanahan, complex superintendent for Buescher and Bastrop State Parks. "Interpretation is what makes the difference in terms of campers making personal connections with our natural and cultural resources."
In South Texas, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, home of the World Birding Center headquarters, has added a new position of lead interpreter/naturalist and has several new projects in the works.
"The new park interpreter is allowing us to increase the quality and quantity of programs, opening up new opportunities for schools, families and out-of-town visitors that would have not been possible without increased funding," said George Cortez, park superintendent. "This year, our park will begin a guest lecture series and increased community outreach to Valley schools."
Bentsen's additional funding will also make possible improvements to the park's primitive camping area, including plans for individual campsites with fire rings, lantern posts and picnic tables. In addition, renovation has begun to convert the park's old entry station into a nature center, which will feature natural history collections, access to remote cameras focused on wildlife and a reference library.
Visitors can see what to do and where to go at state parks across Texas on the TPWD Web site, or by picking up a Texas State Park Guide booklet at any state park or at many local tourism bureaus. Campers can make state park reservations online, or by phoning (512) 389-8900. State parks host a wide array of tours and events, all accessible through an online calendar.
This summer, TPWD is continuing the Free Fishing in State Parks program that waives fishing license requirements within more than 50 state parks, including scheduled events at some parks where participants can learn fishing skills, have a chance to hook a fish and perhaps win door prizes like rods and reels. The department also has a new e-newsletter, State Parks Getaways, featuring park profiles, articles about camping, wildlife and other topics and links to park videos and photos. Anyone can sign up to receive the free e-newsletter and other information via the TPWD E-mail Subscription Service.
* Correction, June 16, 2008: This sentence has been added to the original version of this news release. (Return to corrected item.)
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/parkecon
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/stateofparks
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/freefishing
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/parkguide
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsletters/state_parks_getaways/2008summer
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov ] [TH]
June 2, 2008
Death of Endangered Turtle Signals Need for Vigilance on Texas Beaches
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- As best anyone can tell, sometime during the middle of May a female Kemp's ridley turtle crawled out of the surf on South Padre Island and was struck by a passing vehicle. The cautionary tale illustrates why biologists are asking beachgoers to keep an eye out for the endangered sea turtles and report sightings.
Injured and confused, the turtle returned to the warm Gulf waters for nearly a week. Then, on May 23, the turtle came ashore again. After the animal successfully deposited her clutch of eggs in the sand, volunteers noticed her injuries and took her to Sea Turtle, Inc. There, a veterinarian noted the severe infection and estimated the turtle had only about a week to live. She was euthanized the following day.
The Kemp's ridley turtle's extraordinary drive to reproduce bodes well for the world's smallest marine turtle species. Weighing-in at about 100 pounds as adults, the turtles once came ashore on Gulf of Mexico beaches -- in northern Mexico mostly, but also in South Texas -- in the tens of thousands in a phenomenon known as an arribada (arrival).
Then, the population collapsed, with the total number of observed nesting turtles as recently as two decades ago sinking to just several hundred individuals.
Today, the news for the ridley (it's still listed as an endangered species) is mostly good-more of these turtles continue to nest on Texas beaches than in past years, including some who were reared in captivity and released years ago and are now returning to nest as adults.
As of May 28, 106 nests have been reported on Texas beaches, from Bolivar Peninsula on the upper coast to Boca Chica at the Rio Grande. May 17 set a one-day observation record of 19 nests.
"Unless this is a very early nesting year, it's likely we will set another record for Kemp's ridleys nesting on the Texas coast," said Donna Shaver, Ph.D., chief of the sea turtle science and recovery program at Padre Island National Seashore. Some 128 nests were recorded last year, the largest number since monitoring began in 1980.
The recent run of sea turtle sightings signals the arrival of peak turtle nesting season in Texas that may last through mid-July.
For the past several years, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has worked with a host of other agencies including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Gladys Porter Zoo, University of Texas, officials in Mexico and others to restore the Kemp's ridley.
To protect as many sea turtles as possible, the Padre Island National Seashore incubates most of the sea turtle eggs found along the Texas coast and releases the hatchlings into the Gulf of Mexico.
Shaver urged beachgoers to be especially vigilant through mid-July, particularly on windy days when the turtles are most likely to come ashore.
"Reduce your speed while driving on the beach," she said. "The turtles often cross the vehicular roadway on the beach, and might nest anywhere from the high tide line to the dunes. They will not and cannot move for an approaching vehicle and blend-in very well with the both sand and vegetation."
Shaver encourages people who do sight a nesting sea turtle to mark the nest without disturbing the animal and to flag down a passing "turtle patrol." If mobile phone reception is available, call 1-866-TURTLES, she said.
"Observations from the public are very important," Shaver noted. "Up to about half the nests located on the Texas coast each year are due to reports from the public."
The public also can witness sea turtle hatchling releases at the national seashore on certain dates mid-June through August. The releases usually take place around 6:45 a.m. and are free to attend-see the national seashore sea turtle Web pages for details. General information about Kemp's ridley turtles also is available on the TPWD Web site.
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On the Net:
http://www.nps.gov/pais/
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/webcasts/seacenter/kemps.phtml
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
June 2, 2008
TPWD Proposing Late Shift to South Zone Dove Season
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is proposing moving the South Zone second split of dove season deeper into January, but otherwise is recommending minimal changes to the 2008-09 Early Migratory Game Bird Proclamation.
TPWD staff announced the proposed dove and teal season calendar during the Regulations Committee meeting of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, Wednesday, May 21.
The proposed dove season in the North Zone would run Sept. 1-Oct. 30, with a 15-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; the Central Zone would be Sept. 1-Oct. 30 and reopen Dec. 26-Jan. 4, with a 12-bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves; and the South Zone would run Sept. 20-Nov. 2, reopening Dec. 26-Jan. 20 with a 12 bird bag and not more than two white-tipped doves. Possession limit is twice the daily bag.
The Special South Texas Whitewing Zone, which now encompasses land west of I-35 and south of U. S. Highway 90, would open to white-winged dove afternoon-only (noon to sunset) hunting the first two Saturdays and Sundays in September and reopen Sept. 20-Nov. 2 and again from Dec. 26-Jan. 16. The daily bag limit is 12 birds, not more than four (4) mourning doves during the first two weekend splits and two (2) white-tipped doves.
In South Texas, a few hunters have requested more hunting opportunity in January. To accommodate this request, the department is proposing to move one week from the end of the first season segment (Nov. 3-9) and put it in January (Jan. 14-20). Quail and deer hunting would still be concurrent during either of these periods. The public is urged to provide public comment online at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/business/feedback/public_comment before June 26.
The early teal season is proposed tentatively for Sept. 13-28 if a 16-day season is granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Sept. 20-28 under a 9-day season framework. The daily bag limit for teal is four.
Suggested dates for ducks and geese were also presented to the Commission and simply reflected calendar adjustments from last year. Upon completion of breeding population surveys and development of harvest packages, dates will be refined and provided for public comment probably in late July or early August.
One change that was proposed is shifting the crane season one week later. By suggesting this change, the crane season will run one week later in Zones A and B, take advantage of the entire season length and close one week later. With this suggested change, the Light Goose Conservation Order will open a few days later than in past years in the west Goose Zone. Season dates for sandhill cranes are as follow:
--Zone A-Nov. 8 -- Feb. 8. Bag Limit: 3
--Zone B: Nov. 28 -- Feb. 8, Bag Limit: 3
--Zone C: Dec. 20 -- Jan. 25, Bag Limit: 2
Proposed seasons for other game bird species include: Rail/gallinule Sept. 13-28 and Nov. 1-Dec. 24; snipe Nov. 1-Feb. 15; and woodcock Dec. 18-Jan. 31.
Adoption of the early migratory game bird seasons will take place later this summer as population and other data becomes available.
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Rob McCorkle, 830-866-3533, robert.mccorkle@tpwd.texas.gov ] [RM]
June 2, 2008
Plan Summer Outings with New Guide to Texas State Parks
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texans reeling from soaring gasoline prices might want to consider vacationing this summer a little closer to home to save time and money by visiting one of more than 90 Texas state parks and historic sites.
Available just in time to plan a getaway to the great outdoors is the fifth edition of the free Texas State Park Guide published by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Armchair travelers, too, will enjoy looking through this handy, colorful 112-page booklet to discover how Texas state parks are "getting better all the time."
As a result of additional legislative funding for state parks in 2008-2009, park visitors will be noticing improvements to aging facilities, reopening of campgrounds, and in some cases, increased interpretive programming and security thanks to the hiring of more than 200 new park staff.
As TPWD's executive director, Carter Smith, points out in the guide's introduction, the increased legislative funding for state parks brings added responsibility to "steward those resources well ... so we can keep that momentum going and continue to have a bright future for our parks."
The new guide shines a light on a number of recreational parks and historic sites within an hour's drive of the state's major metro areas of Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. The listing for Dallas/Fort Worth, for example, describes eight state parks within a short drive, where visitors can spend a day or days hiking, biking, fishing or camping under the stars.
A state map occupies the centerfold of the new guide and an information-packed park directory is organized into seven sections corresponding to the states seven travel regions. Each section has a regional map that locates parks and historic sites within that region of Texas. The guide's Symbol Legend provides a ready reference to the type of facilities and amenities to be found at each of the 93 sites.
New to this year's park guide is a section titled "Plan It Outdoors, Online!" that helps direct readers to TPWD's informative Web site that provides a plethora of information about new places to visit, how to make reservations, download park maps and learn more about a host of outdoor learning opportunities, such as the new "Texas Outdoor Family" program, archery skills, boater education and how to become a Master Naturalist. You can even "Shop The Outdoors" online for conservation license plates, wildlife posters, maps and other featured products.
The park guides are available at any state park or state natural area, as well as TPWD law enforcement offices, Sea Center Texas, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, Texas Department of Transportation travel information centers, convention and visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce throughout Texas. You also can print your own guide from the TPWD Web site. In addition, while supplies last, you can go online and request that a guide be mailed to you by visiting: www.tpwd.state.tx.us/parkguide/.
Funds to underwrite the publishing of the Texas State Park Guide were provided by Toyota, with additional support from advertisers. This is the fifth year the automaker has been an underwriting sponsor to help make the guide available at no cost to the public.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/parkguide/
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ General Media Contact: Business Hours, 512-389-4406 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Mona Farmer (903) 670-2228 or mona.farmer@tpwd.texas.gov ]
June 2, 2008
Waco Man Named to Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
ATHENS, Texas -- Charlie Pack of Waco will be inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center June 7.
Pack was nominated in the angler category in recognition of his fishing accomplishments, fishing inventions and work with introducing young people to fishing.
In 1996 Pack founded the Tadpole Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has given more than 40,000 children the chance to fish. All equipment is furnished, and the annual free day of fishing attracts several thousand attendees. The foundation also maintains a fishing equipment lending library. Its motto is "Off the streets and on the creeks."
Pack integrates fishing into every aspect of his life. As a salesman for American General Life Insurance, Pack sold many policies by taking potential clients fishing. His "Fishing Country" television show has aired on several Texas stations for 18 consecutive years and won a Telly Award in 1992. He makes frequent public appearances at schools, civic organizations and other venues, giving fishing demonstrations. He is sponsored by Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola.
Pack has won several bass fishing and crappie fishing championships and is the inventor of the "Pack Pole," an 11-foot telescoping crappie rod. Described in the nomination as "one of Texas' best athletes and fishermen, a fierce competitor," Pack was a high school All-American basketballer at Waco High and still holds the records for most points scored in a game (49) and free-throw percentage (92). He graduated from Baylor University, where he was an All-Southwest Conference basketball player in 1955.
Pack and his wife, Lynn, have been married for more than 40 years and have four children and six grandchildren. A band he started in 1950, "The Originals," is still active.
The Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame honors legendary anglers, fisheries professionals and organizations that have made a contribution to freshwater fishing in Texas.
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On the Net:
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/visit/virtualtour/halloffame/
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov ] [SL]
June 2, 2008
TPWD Upland Game Bird Advisory Board Recognizes QU Support
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Upland Game Bird Advisory Board is recognizing the conservation efforts and contributions of two Texas-based chapters of Quail Unlimited.
The Alamo Area Chapter of Quail Unlimited provided about $12,000 in funds that have been utilized in habitat enhancement activities and in the acquisition of equipment required to accomplish such. The most recent contribution went towards acquisition of a no-till drill to be used in providing enhanced habitats for upland birds; habitats that will not only benefit quail, but a diversity of other wildlife as well.
The South Texas Chapter of Quail Unlimited, since 2001, has contributed about $95,000 towards habitat enhancement activities and equipment purchases to accomplish such, including some $15,000 which was used toward purchase of a 4x4 tractor for use on the Daughtrey WMA.
"This level of participation and contribution represents the true spirit of the public/private partnership focus at Texas Parks and Wildlife," said Deborah Clark, Upland Game Bird Advisory Council chair. "Specifically, these donations support improving habitat management efforts that are the foundation of providing prime hunting opportunities to a broader populace who might not otherwise have access to these and other WMA around the state. The Upland Game Bird Advisory Board is proud to recognize and publicize the generous contributions of these two Quail Unlimited chapters."
The board serves TPWD in an advisory capacity regarding the management, research and habitat acquisition needs of upland game birds, development and implementation of upland game bird regulations, research, management, education and communications with various constituent groups and individuals interested in upland game birds. It consists of members selected from the general public with an interest in upland game bird management.
"Both the Alamo and South Texas Chapters of Quail Unlimited have been extremely contributive towards conservation efforts on the South Texas Ecosystem Project (Daughtrey and Chaparral WMAs) in recent years," said David Synatzske, area manager at the Chap.
Synatzske went on to note the donations could not have come at a more opportune time, because the Chaparral WMA is re-tooling after a wildfire in March destroyed the area's research facility and numerous new research projects are in the works.
"As a result of the recent wildfire on the Chap, there are additional opportunities, utilizing equipment purchased, to enhance habitats in efforts of maintaining a diversity of habitats in the successional processes that will result from such a wildfire," he said. "Diversity of habitats results in diversity of wildlife and this fire offers the opportunity to not only enhance diversity of habitats but also research the effects of such in both the long and short term."
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