According to the TPWD, the Strawn site possesses extraordinary conservation and recreation potential. This state park would include Tucker Lake which the City of Strawn will still own but will be maintained by TPWD. Hiking, camping, fishing and bird watching are some of the activities that would attract people to the proposed park.
Tuesday night TPWD held a public meeting at Strawn School Auditorium to educate area residents about the process that is taking place and to see what sort of response they will be getting from the community. Kevin Good Special, Special Assistant to the Director of the State Parks Division, gave a presentation and then answered questions and addressed concerns from those in attendance.
Once the commission gives the nod to move forward with this plan, the next step would be for TPWD to come in and do some in-depth resource inventory and archeological investigations. Once those studies are done, they will know what areas to develop, which areas to avoid, and the park development planning stage begins. Funding for development of the park is a minimum two years away. This budget cycle has had no money budgeted for developing the park so the next budget cycle will be the first chance for the proposed park to receive state funding.
Once TPWD takes ownership of the property, Good said that they would probably work to offer some sort of limited public access in a year or so by offering things like primitive campgrounds, hiking and mountain biking. He was certain that they would also work to ensure the local community continued to have access to Tucker Lake through the city in the interim.
Several people, including Finis Butler with the Strawn Development Corporation spoke in support of the park. None spoke against the idea but several did have questions and concerns.
Jody Lee, Park Superintendent from Mineral Wells State Park was on hand to answer questions from the viewpoint of a nearby, similar sized, developed park. When asked how many visitors Mineral Wells State Park receives, Lee stated that they have approximately 125,000 visitors a year. He stated that one of the complaints he hears most often is that it is hard to get a camping spot due to the demand and lack of state parks in the area. He sees this nearby state park as quickly getting traffic due to the overload of Mineral Wells State Park.
The volume of possible visitors led to a concern that Strawn's already stretched EMS staff might be overwhelmed. Good stated that TPWD has it's own law enforcement force and maintain Wildland Fire Fighting units around the state. Although they don't have an EMS unit, they are able to be a first responder when a situation occurs. When Lee was asked about the amount of EMS calls at the Mineral Wells State Park, he stated that although he didn't know the exact call volume for EMS, they have approximately 25 - 30 incidents a year. He also stated that they have one of the three rock climbing areas in the state and typically the incidents are in that rock climbing area.
Coppy Hodgkins questioned how the State Park would handle the situation should Tucker Lake's water resources drop to a level that stressed it's ability to provide for the community. Good stated that the needs of the community would most certainly take precedence over the recreational need for water. He also stated that there is the possibility that the park may not use Tucker Lake as a source for water.
Andrea Bennett asked if there was a process for picking a name for the park. Good stated that there was no formal process for that and that no name had yet been suggested. Mrs. Bennett wanted to suggest that the Copeland name be used in some way as that was the family name of her grandparents who had lived on that land for so many years.
In response to a question about possible jobs being created, it was noted that a new state park could create a few jobs as it is being maintained before development. During the development phase contractors often hire from the local area. After the park is fully developed it is estimated that it would create jobs for 15-20 people fluctuating as temporary workers are hired during peak times of the year.
Overall the tone at this meeting and out around the community is one of excitement and eagerness for this park project to begin and eventually to be a fully functioning state park pulling in visitors from all around.