Fort Worth

‘Metroplex’s playground’ needs funding from legislators to open

A sneak peek at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park

The almost 5,000-acre playground is still at least four years away from opening, and while its official name is Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, some locals call it the “Mule Lip State Park.” (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
Up Next
The almost 5,000-acre playground is still at least four years away from opening, and while its official name is Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, some locals call it the “Mule Lip State Park.” (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Most everything is in place for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, minus the money.

With funding expected to be tight in the upcoming Legislature, there remains uncertainty if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be able to get the funding for the roads, cabins and campsites to build-out the park that sits 80 miles west of Fort Worth.

TPWD officials have been conducting $2.7 million worth of engineering and design work and recently asked Strawn officials to start making plans for running water lines to the 4,400-acre park, said City Secretary Danny Miller.

“We don’t have any feel how the Legislature will go,” Miller said.

The park’s origin can be traced to a 2008 fatal shooting at the Mule Lip Bar in Mingus, which led to the sale of some land for the park. Dubbed the “Metroplex’s playground,” the park features 1,200-foot ridge lines and tree-covered land surrounding Palo Pinto Creek. The seed money for the park came from the sale of land that is now the Tarrant Regional Water District’s Eagle Mountain Park.

$25 million The amount Texas Parks and Wildlife is seeking for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

“It is one of our requested projects,” said Brent Leisure, TPWD’s state parks director. “We’ve asked for $25 million for development in the 2018-19 biennium.”

TPWD has ‘considerable needs’

TPWD will also tap into Texas Department of Transportation funds to build roads and also raise money through the Parks and Wildlife Foundation.

If all these sources of funding fall into place, the park could open as early as 2020.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, would like to see the park get the funding but he said it’s too early to predict what will happen in the upcoming session that starts Jan. 10.

We’re nowhere near the point of being optimistic or pessimistic but it is going to be a tight budget.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth

“We’re nowhere near the point of being optimistic or pessimistic but it is going to be a tight budget,” Geren said. “We already know we’re going to need additional funding for CPS.”

Besides the challenges of getting funding from legislators, Geren said it will also depend on where TPWD ranks Palo Pinto Mountains on its wish list. Leisure said the $25 million is part of the $77 million capital construction project wish list submitted to the Legislature.

“I wouldn’t put it in its grave — it’s not on life support — but a lot of that will depend on the determination of Parks and Wildlife Department in their funding priorities and how high on the list it is,” Geren said. “Like a lot of agencies, they have considerable needs.”

Strawn banking on park

In 2015, a group of local residents founded a support organization, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Partners, to raise awareness, host groups and build trails within the park.

Located in southwestern Palo Pinto County, Strawn, population 653, is looking to the park as a potential boon for the local economy. As part of an agreement with TPWD to include the city-owned Lake Tucker in the state park’s footprint, all visitors will travel through Strawn to reach the main entrance.

“We encourage people across the state but especially in Fort Worth, Dallas and North Texas to join our group and keep abreast of developments pertaining to the park,” said Ricky Jones, president of the park partners.

The park partners and the Strawn Chamber of Commerce are planning to meet with legislators in mid-February.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the funds to develop the park will be approved this legislative session,” said Jeff Hinkson, a former president of the chamber. “This park will obviously have a direct impact on Strawn’s local economy but in actuality it will impact our entire region drawing tourists from the Metroplex and throughout the state.”

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna

A shooting at the Mule Lip Bar, in Mingus, sets in motion events that lead to Texas acquiring the land for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. (Star-Telegram/Rodger Mallison)

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments