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Waco archeologist helps open first state park in 20 years

Posted at 10:59 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 10:31:56-05

WACO, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is opening the first new state park in 20 years. Palo Pinto is about three hours northwest of Waco. 

Park Superintendent James Adams says they decided it was time to open a new park because demand for recreational activities has gone up with Texas’ growing population. The pandemic has also pushed more people outside. Adams says they’ve had 30% more visitors over the past two years. 

“It’s really a big deal in that it’s going to provide folks in the area and in the state with another place to recreate outdoors,” said Adams. “We’ve all discovered over the last couple of years that is very important.”

The TPWD district office overseeing the opening of Palo Pinto is in Waco. As the Cultural Resources Coordinator, Tony Lyle says this park gave him the unique opportunity of searching the park for cultural and historical sites before construction began.

While searching the park’s 4,871 acres Lyle found more than 40 sites of cultural importance. These sites spanned thousands of years. He found artifacts from an old railroad, ruins of an oil camp, and even found evidence of nomadic people from prehistoric times.

“We’re finding some unique types of features that you don’t find all over Texas,” said Lyle.

Lyle was able to document the sites so that future roads and buildings won’t disturb them. The efforts will help preserve the area to be enjoyed by future generations.

“As Texans, whether we’re native or not, that’s part of our history,” said Adams. “That is part of all of our roots.”

The park is scheduled to open in 2023. The Parks and Wildlife Foundation is still fundraising for the buildings. You can find more information here.