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The Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Outdoor Family Program Celebrates a Milestone
AUSTIN — The Texas Outdoor Family experience begun in fall 2008 will soon be sharing an outdoor adventure with their 1000th family. To celebrate the milestone, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is releasing a new schedule of dates for the coming cooler season.
The Texas Outdoor Family is continuing to provide family-friendly fun at state parks throughout Texas. The overnight weekend workshops are intended to introduce camping skills and other types of exciting outdoor recreation to participants of all skill levels and backgrounds. An Outdoor Family workshop provides campers with all of the assistance from experienced staff and essential gear they need. Essentials include stoves, lanterns, tents and much more so that you can comfortably enjoy one of Texas’ 93 state parks. Suddenly camping has been made easy, even for the beginner.
“What is especially great about the diversity of Texas state parks,” says Robert Owen, a ranger with the Outdoor Family program, “is that no two workshops are ever the same. We take advantage of each park’s unique resources and explore all sorts of outdoor recreation, such as fishing, kayaking, Dutch oven cooking and geocaching.”
"Geocaching is basically a high-tech scavenger hunt that anyone can be a part of," Owen explains. "Something called a cache is hidden in the park, frequently in a scenic area. Then, participants are provided with a set of coordinates and a GPS unit to lead them to the treasure. Both kids and parents alike love the adventure."
The workshops cost $55 per family (up to six people), with the cost covering park entry, campsite rental, quality restrooms, professional park ranger-led programs and instruction, a family friendly environment, a specially designed curriculum tailored to each state park, a state park Junior Ranger certification program, and most importantly, all of the quality camping equipment needed for the night. All that campers need to bring are sleeping bags or bedding, personal items, and food and drinks. To make sure nothing is left at home, a list of suggested items to bring is also provided.
Twenty-seven new fall workshops have just been announced and will continue through November. Sign up quickly to get a reservation at your local state park or discover a different park and make it a new family favorite. For further details visit the TOF website at http://beta-tpwd.texas.gov/outdoor-learning/texas-outdoor-family/ or search for the "Texas Outdoor Family" on Facebook to see what other families are saying, and view the pictures from past events.
"We are particularly proud of the diversity of our participants and our excellent state park system," says Chris Holmes, Texas State Park’s outdoor education coordinator. “‘Family’ can be a relative word so we encourage groups of all sorts to join us. Extended families, groups of friends, scout groups, adults without children, and more are all welcomed. Everyone is welcome to attend the program and once you take the leap, you’ll be hooked forever.
"We need to reconnect people to the outdoors, regardless of who they are," adds Holmes. "Kids especially need to spend some time away from the computer and television. Teens today are spending less than 10 minutes a day enjoying and exploring the outdoors. The perception is that camping is old, boring, or dangerous, and we’re here to change that. Give us one night at a state park and we think we’ll have you coming back again and again."
One Texas Outdoor Family graduate said after attending the program at Brazos Bend State Park: "I personally had a fear of camping, but I truly had a great time! My kids also had a great time and didn’t want to leave! It was a fantastic family experience and we will definitely camp again.”
A new sponsor will support the Texas Outdoor Family program this fall. Texas-based Igloo Corporation has joined forces with Toyota and TPWD to help provide this opportunity to all Texans. Venture out and see what is happening at a park near you.
Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative or by sending an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. After registration, a confirmation packet with details will be sent.
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