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TPWD News Release — Feb. 25, 2010

"How-to" Camping Program Coming to North Texas State Parks This Spring

AUSTIN — Five Texas state parks in north Texas will host Texas Outdoor Family workshops this spring designed to familiarize families with the outdoors and teach them how to tent camp, cook outdoors and get the most out of their outdoor experience.

Texas Outdoor Family campouts are scheduled for the following dates: March 20-21 at Ray Roberts Lake’s Isle du Bois Unit near Pilot Point, April 10-11 at Dinosaur Valley in Glen Rose, May 1 at Lake Mineral Wells, May 8-9 at Lake Tawakoni near Wills Point and May 22 at Cedar Hill south of Dallas.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program, which was launched in 2008, has taught hundreds of families throughout the state, most of them from urban environments, how to safely enjoy the great outdoors. The north Texas workshops will provide novice campers the chance to see how they like a day and a half in the great outdoors without having to invest in a tent and other camping equipment, said Rose Banzhaf, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department outdoor education specialist.

"By Sunday afternoon, adults and children alike will have experienced some of those things that many people only know about from watching television or going to the cinema," Banzhaf said. "The opportunity to catch a fish, cook a meal over a campfire, paddle a kayak or watch a deer nibble leaves on a tree limb can open up a new world full of wonder, excitement and learning. The best part is that it’s so much fun that kids of all ages will be begging for more."

In addition to workshop basics, such as how to set up camp and use various camping equipment, participants in the Dinosaur Valley State Park workshop will have the chance to explore ancient dinosaur tracks left in the Paluxy River bed. Cultural history also will be the theme at the Cedar Hill State Park family workshop, where participants will learn how to use Global Positioning System technology to investigate Penn Farm, a late 19th century Blackland Prairie homestead.

The Texas Outdoor Family 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. 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.

TPWD launched the program 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.

During a typical outdoor family workshop, participants are welcomed on Saturday morning to the host state park, where they have reserved campsite and receive assistance with pitching camp and operating propane lanterns and other camping equipment. After an afternoon filled with fun outdoor activities, such as geocaching and cooking an outdoor meal, participants 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. Workshop 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. 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 After registration, a confirmation packet with details, including a suggested shopping list, will be sent.