Attention, Texas Legislature: We’re still waiting for Palo Pinto park

Newcomers grin when we talk about the Palo Pinto Mountains.

But the gentle hills in western Palo Pinto County are the only mountains we have near Dallas-Fort Worth, and we want to enjoy them.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told us we could. When state officials gave up on the idea of an Eagle Mountain Lake State Park northwest of Fort Worth in 2006, officials told us they would use the money for a much larger, more useful Palo Pinto Mountains State Park a short drive away near Strawn.

Eight years later, Texans have yet to see the new park.

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say they need more money to add trails, campsites and other facilities before they can open the park.

The Palo Pinto park is one of four state parks bought but never opened for the lack of funding. Besides an estimated $30 million to finish all four parks, it also would take about $1.5 million each year to operate them.

Every city thinks the nearest park is the most important, but there is a good case for funding the Palo Pinto park soon.

Tarrant County does not have a major state park. Cedar Hill State Park is just across the Dallas county line, but the state of Texas has failed to fund any major park improvement in the state’s third most populous county.

The Palo Pinto park is anxiously awaited because we don’t have anything else like it in North Texas.

The mountains are lined with a dense forest of live oaks, post oaks, blackjack oaks, mesquite and cedar elms. The trails will draw hikers who currently go to the Hill Country or the Arbuckle Mountains in southwest Oklahoma.

The city of Strawn is also counting on the park, negotiating to locate the front gate just west of town and draw tourists to a region halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene now known mostly for the Thurber ghost town, chicken-fried steak cafes and landmarks along the old Bankhead Highway cross-country motoring route.

Regional leaders hope the park will draw up to 150,000 visitors a year for attractions such as Raptors Ridge, a way station for the park’s resident hawks and falcons.

Legislators should consider the Palo Pinto park funding a priority not just for that county, but also for Tarrant County and the region.