Editorials

A killing, a park, and people who connected them

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Will Copeland shot Kevin Parsons in the Mule Lip Bar in Mingus setting in motion a sequence of events that led to the state of Texas buying land for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.
Will Copeland shot Kevin Parsons in the Mule Lip Bar in Mingus setting in motion a sequence of events that led to the state of Texas buying land for Palo Pinto Mountains State Park. rmallison@star-telegram.com

It’s just not right that Kevin Parsons, 43 and homeless at the time, had to die in the early morning of Dec. 5, 2008, in the Mule Lip Bar in Mingus, 70 miles west of Fort Worth.

As told in Sunday’s Star-Telegram by reporter Bill Hanna, Parsons was on the wrong end of a 20-gauge shotgun brought into the bar by Will Copeland, a Mule Lip regular. The two apparently had a dispute about whether Parsons should leave — it was closing time.

More than seven years later, the shooting is of little consequence to most people. It was, after all, one of 123,621 violent crimes in Texas that year, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Copeland was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and spent two years in prison before returning to a quiet life in Palo Pinto County. He died this year, and he and Parsons are buried in the same cemetery in Strawn.

What was remarkable about that fateful 2008 encounter between Parsons and Copeland was the chain of events it set in motion, leading to the accumulation of 4,400 acres for the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

Crucial to that chain of events were dedicated people who were determined to make the park a reality. They are the heroes of this story.

Parsons’ family filed a wrongful death suit against Copeland, who settled out of court and signed over 1,330 acres to the family.

Meanwhile, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department had been searching for land to create a state park within an hour’s drive from Fort Worth.

The state agency hired the Nature Conservancy of Texas, dedicated to protecting ecologically important land and waters, to act on its behalf in finding and buying the new park land.

After extensive searching, said Jeff Francell, director of land protection for the Nature Conservancy, they settled on the land the Parsons family had obtained from Copeland. But it wasn’t enough.

Enter Palo Pinto Realtor Janna Brimer. Much of the land surrounding the Parsons family tract was owned by members of Copeland’s family.

The Copeland family didn’t always get along, so that became Brimer’s problem to solve.

Slowly, she got them to sell, along with closing smaller deals with other adjacent landowners. More than 4,000 acres have been assembled.

The next step is up to the Texas Legislature: allocating more than $30 million to build cabins, roads and other facilities and open the park.

That’s the only suitable ending to this story.

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