Texas State Parks Celebrate 100 Years

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Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has been serving Texans through access to nature, birding, fishing, and more for 100 years.

Bentsen State Park is one of 88 Texas State Parks that will be taking part in a centennial celebration.

Bentsen State Park’s Lead Interpreter Roy Rodriguez said he is excited to welcome more visitors to the area.

“A lot of our parks have annual events, but you’re going to see new events throughout the year to celebrate and bring people in to enjoy these great parks,” Rodriguez said.

Usually, state parks don’t get much publicity. But this year, a campaign will be launched to celebrate and build awareness about the family fun and benefits of getting outdoors to a state park.

“The first state park was created by Texas Governor John Nance Garner,” Rodriguez said. “The centennial is going to be promoted across the state. We have partnerships with H-E-B and they’re going to be selling items about our centennial. We’re going to have a state park passport to see how many you can visit.”

Bentsen State Park is located at 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive (FM 2062) in Mission. The site also serves as the headquarters for the World Birding Center and attracts birding enthusiasts from around the country, and the world, to view rare birds in their migratory path.

Rodriguez and the team he works with put a strong emphasis on education. School groups are common at Bentsen due to TPWD’s policy offering free entry to school groups.

“It’s vitally important for children to get outside and for us to be able to get the word out,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t charge entry; we offer free programs. Whenever we get a call from a school, most of them are nearby, so the La Joya, Mission, and McAllen area, but we get districts from as far as San Antonio.

“We get people from all over the place wanting to experience our unique sights. We can’t minimize the importance of young people getting involved with nature at a young age.”

The site has plenty to offer — from fishing to biking to birding.

“State parks are meant to serve population hubs,” Rodriguez said. “Even in big cities like Houston, San Antonio, or Dallas, they aren’t that far from a state park. Our site is interesting because we have primitive tent camping. We have a fishing lake and we have bird feeding areas.”

The park has seven miles of trail, including 3.5 miles of park road on bike or foot. The 1.8-mile Rio Grande Trail is wheelchair accessible.

Visitors can bring their own bikes or rent bikes for $5 a day. The park also offers tram tours and has a cafe for a quick bite before or after enjoying the trails.

Ranger-guided programs are a good way to learn about the local wildlife. These programs ramp up in the summer with outdoor skill lessons in activities such as kayaking and fishing.

Get active and get in touch with nature! Bentsen State Park is open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at a fee of $5 for adults and free for children 12 and under.

Nathaniel Mata