Texas State Parks Board - Creation of a System
Americans recognized the value of resource conservation with the creation of a national park system; and gained access to the parks by the automobile and road networks. Suddenly people had cars, paved roads to drive on, and destinations to explore. In 1923, Pat Neff, the governor of Texas, appointed a Texas State Parks Board to begin locating sites for the establishment of a state parks system.
“Texas is rich and diversified in climate, in scenery of natural beauty, and in the variety of its native plant and animal life…ideal for the location of public parks and recreational centers.”
New Deal Breathes New Life into Texas State Parks
In 1933, President Roosevelt charged the National Park Service to lend their services as part of his New Deal program. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), built our park infrastructure putting out-of-work Americans back on the job. Texas State Parks transformed from a handful of undeveloped properties into a robust system of over fifty parks. Texans added camping, fishing, and hiking to their family traditions.
Popular parks like Palo Duro Canyon, Garner, and Balmorhea were built by the CCC
Trailblazers and Parks for All
Trailblazing Texans worked to ensure that parks were for everyone. While WWII soldiers were away, Texas women kept parks operating. This opened the doors of change, elevating the roles of women in the workforce as leaders. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African American citizens near Tyler and Bastrop State Parks successfully advocated for access to parks regardless of the color of someone's skin.
The Golden Age – Growth and Expansion
By the 1980s, parks were stretched to capacity. Thanks to significant public support for additional parks, the legislature expanded the system dramatically. Texans were becoming aware of the importance public lands played in maintaining a healthy environment. Parkland was acquired and managed to protect their habitat, uniqueness, and geological forms in order to preserve the land and the experience.
Over 30 parks opened during this time, many protected for their unique resources, including Big Bend Ranch, Seminole Canyon, and Enchanted Rock.
21st Century Parks — The Next 100 Years
Although our park system has expanded significantly in the last one hundred years, 95% of Texas is still privately owned. This makes public land in Texas a precious resource for people and wildlife. Every inch of our Texas public land is a seed of hope for future generations.
Today over 630,000+ acres are devoted to Texas State Parks
Indigenous Land Acknowledgement
Our State Parks are situated on the traditional lands of numerous indigenous peoples. We acknowledge those who have ancestral history in Texas State Parks.
Texas State Parks: The First 100 Years
The State Parks Board was created in 1923, making 2023 the 100th year of Texas’ park system. Learn about the history of our treasured parklands, and some hopes and plans for the next century of state parks. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation has partnered with TPWD to celebrate 100 years of Texas State Parks. H-E-B, the presenting sponsor of the Centennial Celebration, has donated $1 million to help Texas State Parks engage all Texans in discovering and exploring their parks.