Neff State Park: by
- Anyone wanting to tour the state parks of Texas beginning with the first one
has to start at Mother Neff State Park because that is where the Texas state park
system was started.|
It started when former Governor Pat Neff named the
park in honor of his mother, who donated the first six acres for the park in 1915
and died in 1921, the year Neff took office. As head of the state parks board
in the 1930s, Neff donated the rest of the land the park sits on today.
The Civilian Conservation Corps, part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program,
built the park from 1934-38. The park and the adjacent River Road were added to
the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
For more than 80 years now, the park has survived the vagaries of weather, politics
and state budgets. It's especially popular with couples who want to say "I do"
amid the oak, elm, juniper and cottonwood trees near the banks of the Leon River.
The park is the setting for about 30 weddings a year.
science students have been taking advantage of the park's unique geography for
years. Mother Neff sits at a geographic confluence of four distinct eco-systems:
Leon river bottom, limestone escarpment, and sections of the Cross Timbers and
Grand Prairie regions.
The students' work helped make possible publication
of a Texas Parks and Wildlife pamphlet, the "Mother Neff State Park Tree Guide."
The park is also on the flyway for migratory birds and is popular in
late fall and early spring with bird watchers.
Beyond the prairie, like
a cool, blue mirage, sit the foothills of the Texas
are other surprises: a Tonkawa Indian Cave, a stone water tower with a panoramic
view of the surrounding countryside, a water hole known as the Wash Pond because
it is believed that Indians and pioneers used it to wash clothes.|
history of the park is the subject of the book "Guided With A Steady Hand" by
Dan K. Utley and James W. Steely. The authors focus on work done at the park as
a microcosm of the CCC Texas projects in the 1930s.
Rumors in the
early 90s that the park would close because of damage from a flood and state budget
cuts proved to be untrue, but an austerity program has reduced the number of employees
and number of guided tours. A $2 admission fee was instituted in 1991.
Swimming is discouraged at the park because of submerged debris and the unpredictability
of the Leon River currents. Fishing is good for white bass in the spring and catfish
in the summer. The chance to see wildlife in a natural setting is good any time
of the year, especially early in the morning or late in the evening. Deer, raccoons,
possums, skunks and both gray and red foxes make up part of the park's year-round
"Letters from Central
December 8 , 2006 Column