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West Texas Trail Ride To Teach School Kids About State’s Pioneer Roots
MARFA, Texas — Thirty youngsters from three north and west Texas school districts will spend their Spring Break rolling through the rugged expanses of West Texas in covered wagons to get a taste of what their pioneering forebears experienced some 150 years ago.
The youth outreach trail ride, sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association, will cover roughly 75 miles from Marfa to Big Bend Ranch State Park outside Presidio. Trail riders will gather March 14 at the Marfa Fairgrounds, and depart the next morning for the MacGuire Ranch and points south. The trail ride concludes March 21 after several days of exploring local ranches and camping out at Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas’ largest state park.
Participants will include a number of 7th and 8th grade students enrolled in Gifted and Talented programs in the Marfa, Canutillo and Carrollton-Farmers Branch independent school districts. Accompanying the 10 wagons carrying students will be teachers from the three ISDs, dozens of TETRA wagon drivers and outriders, a scout team, a cooking team and support crew. Support will include TETRA members, Presidio County Sheriff’s office personnel, TPWD game wardens, and Boy Scout Troop 155 of Georgetown, Texas.
The general purpose of the TPWD youth outreach and education program is to provide a challenging and fun-filled adventure to students from three culturally diverse school districts, according to the trail ride’s organizer.
"We want to provide an educational program that gives youngsters a chance to experience what pioneer life might have looked like years ago from the confines of a wagon," said trail ride boss Karl Cloninger, TPWD’s director of the Parrie Haynes Ranch in central Texas. "We’ll be teaching the children about the cultural resources of the Alamito Creek watershed and the history of ranching in the Big Bend. A top-notch educational team supported by numerous local ranchers and speakers will make this an experience not to be forgotten."
Alamito Creek follows a historic "highway" used by Spanish explorers hundreds of years ago that has a number of significant cultural resource sites along the way. The old Chihuahua Trail from Mexico to Texas also runs through the area being traversed by the trail riders.
Cloninger calls the outing a "move up" trail ride, where the wagon train stages at a certain location for a while, before picking up and moving further down the "trail" to the next overnight camping spot. Most of the route between Marfa and Big Bend Ranch will be along unpaved Texas Highway 169 and through rugged, but picturesque Chihuahuan Desert ranchland.
Along the way, students will attend "class sessions" that will teach them about the cultural and natural resources of West Texas, touching on the bi-national borderland and the area’s rich ranching culture, geography, geology, and archeology. Students will have the opportunity to visit the Fort Leaton State Historic Site in Presidio during their three-day stay at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
For additional information, contact Karl W. Cloninger at (512) 934-1723.
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