More Texas families becoming camping converts
AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has scheduled a full slate of Texas Outdoor Family workshops this fall designed to introduce even more families to the ease and joy of camping in one of dozens of Texas state parks.
Since its inception in 2008, 1,040 families have participated in the two-day, supervised outdoor education program, learning how set up a campsite, cook outdoors, hike, fish, use GPS devices and learn other outdoor skills.
During the current fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31, 578 families (2,123 people) attended 58 outdoor family workshops offered throughout much of the state. Twent y-six workshops were full, resulting in 135 families placed on a waiting list. Workshop participants were split almost evenly between adults and half children.
The Jamail Family of Mountain City, south of Austin, landed a spot for the popular outdoor family workshop held at Inks Lake State Park near Burnet last April. Darryl Jamail and his wife Stephanie, who have children ranging from 5 to 9 years of age, hadn’t been camping in more than 25 years and were hesitant to take their youngsters on a camp out. But Darryl says the supply list provided by workshop organizers after they had signed up to be a great “jump starter” and found the overnight camping trip fun for all. Stephanie says they’ll use the list for future camping trips and the family will likely buy a Texas State Park Pass, which makes camping for families economical.
“It was such a great experience,” Stephanie says. “We learned what it takes to prepare ourselves to go camping, what size tent and what kind of gear we need, and how easy it is to use state parks.”
The ethnicity of Texas Outdoor Family participants, according to program leader Chris Holmes, closely parallels the diversity of the state’s population: 55 percent Anglo, 28 percent Hispanic, 10 percent Asian and seven percent African-American.
“Workshop participants are a good reflection of Texas’ overall ethnic diversity and represent a more diverse user group compared to those who typically visit our state parks,” Holmes says. “We found, too, that 87 percent of the families had not camped in a Texas state park in the last five years.”
The workshops cost $55 per family for up to six people. The cost covers all park entry fees and campsite rental, professional park ranger-led programs and instruction, a specially designed curriculum tailored to each state park, a state park Junior Ranger certification program and most importantly. All that campers need to bring are sleeping bags or bedding, personal items, and tuni ty f ood and d ri nks. To make sure nothing is left at home, a list of suggested items to bring is also provided.
Holmes says that no experience or special equipment is needed to attend an outdoor family workshop. Tents, cooking equipment and other essential items are provided.
Skilled outdoor specialists and trained volunteers provide hands-on instruction in everything from setting up a tent and building a fire to how promote env ironmental awareness in children.
The first fall overnight camp outs began Sept. 11-12 at Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country and at Galveston Island State Park.
Weekend workshops will be held this autumn in state parks located near most of Texas’ major metropolitan areas, as well as several parks in less populous areas. This year’s final camp outs will be held Dec. 4-5 at Mineral Wells State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
While all workshop activities are similar, some instruction is site-specific, taking advantage of a park’s individual natural resource.
At the upcoming Galveston State Park workshop, for example, participants will learn a number of basic outdoor skills, such as how to build a base camp and cook on an open flame. Campers, however, also w ill have the opportunity to try sea kayaking and take a guided hike to observe the Galveston Bay’s changing environment.
For a complete list of upcoming workshops, visit the online Texas Outdoor Family Calendar pages. The workshops are made possible in part by sponsorships from Toyota and the Igloo Corporation.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. tx.us. After registration, a confirmation packet with details will be sent.