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Eisenhower State Park Celebrates 50 Years of Public Access to Outdoors
Park Hailed as a Symbol of Outdoor Legacy, Testament to Private-Public Partnership
DENISON, Texas — Numerous park patrons, local business people, past and present state park staff and area public officials gathered on a seemingly made-to-order, 75-degree sunny morning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Eisenhower State Park on Saturday.
What began in 1958 as a 400-plus acre lease with the U.S. Department of the Army and as part of a burgeoning Texas state park system, Eisenhower State Park has endured today as a popular destination for campers, boaters, picnickers and countless others just south of the Red River border along sprawling Lake Texoma.
"We do have a legacy here at Eisenhower State Park," said Paul Kisel, park superintendent. "And it’s for the people to enjoy. ‘Ike’ didn’t spend much time in Texas, actually only about 18 months after his birth, but he was sure glad to call himself a Texan."
The state park is named for Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. president, who was born in Denison in 1890 in a house located not far from the park. The original park opening in May of 1958 came during the second term of then-President Eisenhower, who was unable to attend. But the grand opening ceremonies were attended by his brother, Earl Eisenhower.
Saturday’s 50th anniversary celebration included a full agenda of activities and children’s games, including horseshoes, sack races, star gazing, fly-fishing seminars and fly-tying demonstrations, as well as an original 1958 runabout boat set adjacent to a modern 40-plus foot racing boat on display-showcasing how the park’s working marina has changed during the past half century.
"Back when the park system began, only one in four Texans lived in the city; today, four out of five live in an urban area," said State Rep Larry Phillips of Sherman during his address to park visitors. "For many people, Texas state parks represent some of the few public places where they can enjoy the outdoors and the cultural diversity of Texas. And this park is a huge economic engine for us in Grayson County, and we appreciate the State of Texas investing here. I remember coming to Eisenhower as a kid and enjoying this park even before my family moved here."
Another unique feature about Eisenhower State Park is that a full-service marina and store, which are operated by private individuals as contract concessionaires, is located on-site within the park. The marina opened to the public prior to the state park, and from the beginning has shown a willing entrepreneurial spirit of area citizens to value the park as a resource, both for its natural beauty and its economic potential.
"There was a marina actually four years before the state park opened, and I’ve been here at the marina for 38 years," said Lacy Harber, owner of the Eisenhower Yacht Club, which operates several hundred boat slips. "We have thoroughly enjoyed our relationship with Texas Parks and Wildlife over the years."
For more information about Eisenhower State Park, call (903) 465-1956, or visit the TPWD web site.
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