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National Parks TV Series May Turn Texan Eyes To State Parks
AUSTIN, Texas — Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ PBS series "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea" is firing the public imagination about parks at a time when the Texas State Parks system is reinventing itself to engage a new generation of visitors. State park officials hope to capitalize on the enthusiasm, reminding Texans their own system of 93 sites has a diverse history that includes new offerings for the 21st century.
The 12-hour national parks series is airing on PBS in six two-hour segments that began Sept. 29 and continue through Friday, Oct. 3. Months before the series, TPWD video producers began communicating with Texas public TV stations about possibly providing video material to run alongside the Burns series.
Producer Ron Kabele ended up putting together four 20-minute state park specials using material produced for the weekly, half-hour series Texas Parks & Wildlife that airs on all Texas PBS stations. The regional segments cover West Texas, Central Texas, North Texas and the Gulf coast. The TPWD episodes will run during fall pledge drives, with Texas stations running the modular episodes for 20 minutes, then soliciting viewer pledge calls for 10 minutes. KUHT-TV Houston already did this Sep. 12. The state park specials brief feature introductory and closing comments by TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, shot at McKinney Falls State Park.
Also, just as the PBS Web site offers multimedia options for people to learn about national parks, TPWD has recently unveiled a number of new online tools relating to Texas state parks.
Visitors to the Texas Parks and Wildlife YouTube Channel can view more than 120 short videos online. This includes more than 75 videos showcasing nature, history and things to do at individual state parks across Texas. The department’s YouTube channel is one of four "social media" outlets TPWD is currently piloting, the others being Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. TPWD YouTube videos cover individual state parks, fishing, hunting, wildlife, boating safety, how-to topics and news reports on a variety of subjects.
The department also recently launched two CCC Web Sites that explore the historical and architectural links between the Texas state parks system and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was a New Deal-era federal works program that helped construct dozens of state parks across Texas, as well as many of the national parks featured in Burns’ documentary.
TPWD is also preparing to spend tens of millions of dollars on major repairs and improvements at state parks, money approved by state voters and the Texas Legislature. And, with additional funding from lawmakers provided in 2007, the department has hired new staff and launched new programs to manage and showcase state parks.
A flagship example of new state park offerings to reach new audiences is the Texas Outdoor Family program. No experience is necessary for these weekend workshops, which teach parents and kids to pitch tents, cook over campfires and reconnect with nature. These cost $55 for a family of up to six people, and that fee covers all necessary equipment and instruction, everything except food and bedding.
More information is on the TPWD Web site, or see lifesbetteroutside.org for a simple one-stop menu of family adventure options for nature and the outdoors. Or, pick up a Texas State Park Guide booklet at any state park or at most local tourism offices. Campers can make state park reservations online, or by phoning (512) 389-8900.
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