Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 27, 2012

First Day Hikes established at Purtis Creek State Park

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — There’s no time like the first of the year to start a good habit.

Purtis Creek State Park is joining other destinations in the Texas Parks and Wildlife System in offering “First Day Hikes” Jan. 1. This is the second year the hikes have been on the calendar around the state. Purtis Creek State Park, on Farm-to-Market Road 316 east of Eustace, is offering two on Jan.1, beginning at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“We’ll meet at the Beaver Slide Nature Path,” Purtis Creek Park Superintendent Mindy Davis said. “The hike will be approximately an hour hour-and-15-minutes, depending on that we see.”

TPWD reports that the inaugural year of First Day Hikes at the start of 2012 drew more than 1,100 people at 47 state parks across Texas.

“In addition to drawing new users to parks on Jan. 1, we hope to see return visitors from last year as families start to embrace First Day Hikes as a beloved tradition from year-to-year,”  Karen Blizzard, the Texas coordinator for First Day Hikes said.

Davis will lead the tour, talking about native plants, animals or park history. The TPWD says participants will want to make some modest advance preparations. Folks will want to wear sturdy shoes, and bring drinking water and a hiking stick. Park entrance fees apply in most places, and many parks are leading the First Day Hike at no extra cost.

According to TPWD, recent on-site visitor surveys in Texas parks revealed that hiking trails were the most sought-after amenity by park visitors, and many Texas state parks have added newly-built or recently-improved hiking and biking trails, in order to meet growing demand.

“We have a 5-mile hike and mountain bike trail,” Davis said.  “We just opened it last year, and haven’t done an official grand opening on it,”

Davis said January is a good time to see the park. Among the attractions are two functioning beaver lodges on the Beaver Slide Nature Path, and fishing, especially for crappie.

“Right now, we don’t have a high visitation. It’s about half-full for the weekend,” Davis said. “That helps a lot for day-users who come in because the campsites are not packed out. It’s a good time to see wildlife, because with less people in the park, they’re more likely to come out.”

To make reservations, or find out more about Purtis Street State Park, call 903-425-2332.