Summer, Fall Weekends Set Near Austin, San Antonio, Houston
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Outdoor Family program is expanding, offering a new series of weekend workshops in state parks this summer and fall. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department began the program two years ago, and is also hosting workshops in local parks through partnerships with cities, river authorities and others.
"Today’s children are growing up in urban areas and becoming disconnected with the world of nature and the outdoors," said Walt Dabney, TPWD State Parks Division director. "Many parents are aware of this and are interested in getting back to nature, but they don’t know how to get started. This program directly addresses that need, and we want it to become a centerpiece of our outreach and education efforts in state parks."
Workshops in state parks cost $55 per family (up to eight people), and include individual car camping sites for each family, restrooms with hot showers, professional Park Ranger-led programs and instruction, overnight state park police officer public safety and security, a curriculum developed specifically for use and enjoyment of a state park, and state park Junior Ranger certification programs. The entire approach is ’Leave No Trace’ Certified so it’s environmentally friendly.
"There’s no experience necessary for these workshops," said Chris Holmes, a state park regional interpreter who is organizing the new workshop series. "We recognize that many people in today’s increasingly urban culture don’t have the same skills or backgrounds as earlier generations of Texans. These weekend workshops offer a supportive environment where families can get started in safe and comfortable settings."
For example, the schedule for one upcoming state park weekend includes pitching tents, fire starting and outdoor cooking, and morning and night-time guided talks or tours with park rangers. Most workshops also include activities such as introductions to fishing, kayaking and trail adventure and exploration through GPS and geocaching.
For workshops in state parks, families are expected to bring their own food for the two-day workshops, and a suggested shopping and packing lists for meals and personal items will be provided.
Fees for workshops held in local parks vary, but typically the fee per family of four is $150. This includes all meals, so families do not need to bring food.
Toyota has come on board as a sponsor of Texas Outdoor Family, helping provide funding for equipment to make the weekend workshops possible, and more sponsors are being sought who want to help introduce families to nature and the outdoors.
Visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoorfamily for more information. Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-to-6 p.m. After registration, a confirmation packet with directions and details will be sent.
The schedule of upcoming Texas Outdoor Family workshops is as follows. The first two workshops in August are on weekdays-the thinking here is to see if families with children out of school for the summer might enjoy a less crowded midweek experience. All other dates below are Saturday-Sunday. Check the Texas Outdoor Family web pages regularly, as new workshops continue to be added to the schedule.