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TPWD News Release — Feb. 8, 2010

‘How-to’ Camping Program Coming to Northeast Texas State Parks

AUSTIN — Outdoor recreation specialists with the state’s Texas Outdoor Family program will be sharing their camping, cooking and various outdoor skills on Feb. 20-21 at Caddo Lake State Park and March 6-7 at Tyler State Park.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, which is in its second year, has taught hundreds of adults and children throughout the state, most of them from urban environments, how to safely enjoy the great outdoors.

TPWD launched the Texas Outdoor Family workshops in 2008 in an effort to eliminate barriers to families wishing to share the outdoor experience together. The campouts are designed for persons who have never camped before or may not have camped for many years, as well as for those who don’t have the necessary equipment or see the outdoors as being boring or dangerous. By providing quality gear to be used for the overnight stay and park-specific programs and activities, TOF’s outdoor specialists show how anyone can enjoy camping with no hassles. Texas state parks, with ample campsites and a law enforcement presence, prove the ideal setting for the structured campouts.

The overnight campout at Caddo Lake State Park will teach adults eco-friendly Leave No Trace principles and how to pitch a tent and use camp stoves and lanterns, while establishing a base camp for the weekend. Youngsters will learn environmental ethics, how to fish and take guided tours along park trails to see nature up close. They also will have the chance to explore the park through the use of Global Positioning System devices and geocaching, a high-tech version of a scavenger hunt.

During the evening, TOF participants will learn how to build a fire and cook on open flames and outdoor grills, and receive a primer on those scary night noises typically heard in a park. On Sunday morning, a park ranger will share coffee and conversation about nature, state parks and how to best enjoy the great outdoors.

Dutch oven cooking will highlight the weekend campout TOF festivities at Tyler State Park the first weekend in March. Dutch oven cooking is an ideal way to use hot charcoal to cook peach cobbler, lasagna and other tasty treats in a cast iron pot. Other outdoor activities during the weekend will include those typical of most TOF workshops.

Participants will be welcomed on Saturday morning to the host state park, where they have a reserved campsite and receive assistance with pitching camp and how to operate various camping equipment. After an afternoon filled with fun outdoor activities and cooking an outdoor meal, participants will enjoy an evening presentation on night sounds to prepare them for what they might hear while snuggled in their tent.

The weekend campout costs $55 per family of six or fewer people. The program caters to all people and is not limited to the traditional nuclear family. TOF participants bring their own food for the two-day workshops, and receive a checklist of what they need to bring along with a suggested shopping and packing list for meals and personal items.

The Texas Outdoor Family outdoor workshops are designed to combat "Nature Deficit Disorder," a phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, "Last Child in the Woods." Louv cites studies that show that playing outdoors strengthens a young person’s mind and body, leading to better performance in school and interactions with others.

Since its inception, the TOF program has impacted more than 500 families. The first-of-its-kind Texas program has gained national attention from such national organizations as Leave No Trace and the National Association of Interpretation, spurring spinoff programs in other states.

Check the TPWD Web site to see what activities occur at each event.  Toyota is a proud sponsor of Texas Outdoor Family, helping provide funding for equipment to make the weekend workshops possible.

Visit the Texas Outdoor Family Web page for more information, including the complete schedule of this spring’s weekend workshops. Texas Outdoor Family is now on Facebook, where graduated families post their pictures and share their stories of their outdoor adventures.

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 anytime. After registration, a confirmation packet with details will be sent.