An expert at Texas A&M calls state parks the number one tourist attraction in all of Texas.
Texas parks keep bringing in record numbers of visitors, and that includes one Central Texas park with a unique problem.
Vance Dawson and his friends left Dallas to find some peace and quiet and found it at Mother Neff State Park.
"Well, we were looking online for someplace to go to get away. My friends got a brand-new camper and he found this," Dawson said.
Like most Texas state parks, Mother Neff has seen more people come here every year.
"We stay full on the weekends here in our campgrounds. We've got record numbers of attendance over the last three years, trending upward every year,” said Park Superintendent Melissa Chadwick.
And this park, one of the state's oldest parks, has done that despite big-time challenges.
Mother Neff State Park continues to draw big numbers of people even though more than 10 percent of the land remains off-limits due to flood damage.
"Mother nature has not been kind over the last several years and areas are still experiencing periodic flooding and flooding damage since May of 2015,” said Chadwick.
So how has Mother Neff kept people coming? By investing in amenities on the high ground like improved campsites, by installing play areas with a nature theme and by putting the focus on the park's long-time strengths.
Strengths like its hiking trails, its spring-fed wash pond and its iconic rock tower, which has one of the most breathtaking views in Central Texas.
Chadwick doesn't yet know how long it will take to get the rest of the park open. She says a break from nature and more money would help.
But it seems to make little difference to Vance Dawson, who enjoys the getaway.
"Absolutely. Well, it's not far from the metroplex for one thing. It's easy to get to, the roads are all good and when you drive in, you can see the landscape. It looks cool,” Dawson said.
Mother Neff is cool enough for visitors to keep coming back to this little slice of heaven in Central Texas.
The park has a fundraising 5K scheduled for Feb. 23. If you'd like to register, click this link.
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