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Home | Tag Archives: Franklin Mountains State Park

Tag Archives: Franklin Mountains State Park

Residents invited to trek into the next decade on a First Day Hike at a Texas State Park

El Pasoans and all Texans are invited to start the next decade of adventures ‘on the right foot’ at a Texas State Park by participating in a First Day Hike.

This New Year’s Day, Texas State Parks will host a variety of programs for the whole family to enjoy.  First Day Hikes at Texas’ state parks and natural areas aim to help visitors commit to their New Year’s resolutions to get healthy.

“This has become such a fun event for our teams in state parks and we are once again looking forward to starting off the new year with our visitors on the trail.,” says Justin Rhodes, Deputy Director of Texas State Parks.  “Whether you are a novice hiker or seasoned pro, early riser or night owl, beach enthusiast or mountaineer, alone or with your family and friends, you are likely to find the perfect opportunity to start the year in a state park.”

The First Day Hikes events range from strolls on scenic trails, midnight walks, polar plunges, bike rides, and short treks with four-legged family members to more strenuous hikes for experienced visitors.

Here in In West Texas, visitors can work up a sweat and burn some calories while taking in the splendors of the mountains at Franklin Mountains State Park. Park rangers are hosting a 5.5-mile, moderate hike from 9 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. along the scenic trail up to Mundy’s Gap.

Hikers will meet at the West Cottonwood Springs trailhead in the Tom Mays Unit and should come equipped with water, snacks and sturdy hiking shoes.

Elsewhere around the state, the following parks have events scheduled:

Ring in the New Year on an old trail at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Join a park ranger on a 2.5-mile hike to and from the Resaca Vieja Trail starting at 9 a.m. Participants will meet at the park headquarters and are encouraged to bring sunscreen, a hat, water and comfortable shoes.

Fort Parker State Park will host a black light hike and scavenger hunt at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Beginning at 10:30 p.m., a park ranger will lead a half-mile hike and uncover the hidden treasures on the trail with a blacklight. The fun will continue with a “riddle-me-this” scavenger hunt. Then, the new year will be welcomed in around a campfire with hot chocolate and cookies.

Hike with dogs looking for their “fur-ever” homes at Lake Brownwood State Park from 11 a.m.- 12 p.m. New Year’s Day. Pups from NaNook & NaKoda’s Big Paws Rescue will be at the park and visitors will have a chance to meet and hike with the dogs and even start adoption paperwork if interested. Anyone wanting to participate in the short, easy hike should meet the ranger at the Texas Oak trailhead.

At Sea Rim State Park, visitors can begin their year with a hike on the beach. Texas Master Naturalists will be serving up some luck with black-eyed peas and cornbread snacks. The event begins at 9 a.m. and is set to run until 11 a.m.

Last year, 77 state parks hosted First Day Hike events across Texas. More than 3,900 participants walked, paddled and biked 7,086 miles at a Texas State Park.

Find a complete list of this year’s First Day Hike events on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s calendar page.

Texas State Parks, Texas Historical Commission host events celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas

AUSTIN— Officials with Texas State Parks and the Texas Historical Commission are inviting residents to dust off the tinsel and twinkle lights and head to a Texas State Park for some holiday fun.

Starting right here in the Sun City, residents can walk off the stuffing and pie at the Turkey Trot event at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso 8:30 a.m. November 29.

Staff will lead visitors on a moderately difficult trail to the Aztec Caves in the Franklin Mountains. The trail is about one and a half miles and participants are encouraged to bring comfortable shoes and plenty of water.

Forty-four other Texas State Parks and 10 Texas Historical Commission State Historic Sites will also be decking the halls and creating some holiday cheer at more than 80 events statewide beginning this Saturday and continuing through December.

On Dec. 14, Abilene State Park will be hosting the Fa La La in the Forest event from 6-9 p.m. Campers are encouraged to adorn their campsites, screened shelters and yurts with lights and decorations in honor of the holiday season. Campsite fees will be waived the day of the event for anyone who wants to decorate their site. The public is invited to tour the park and take in the twinkling lights on display. Anyone interested in decorating a campsite must contact the park in advance at 325-572-3204.

Walk the candlelit paths at Barrington Plantation State Historic Site from 4:30-8 p.m. Dec. 6-7 and experience a Texas Christmas the decade before the Civil War. Visitors will be able to discover the origins of some of their favorite holiday traditions as costumed interpreters bring to life the festivities of the season with musket-fire, music and dancing. Attendees will also be able to tour the historic home of the last President of the Texas Republic, Dr. Anson Jones, as the family enjoys their Christmas gathering.

In South Texas, families can pick a spot in the day use area of Falcon State Park to view the Second Annual Falcon Lake Christmas Boat Parade from 7-10 p.m. Dec. 14. Visitors will be able to see boats float by decked out in cheerful Christmas lights.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site will be hosting the 50th Annual LBJ Tree Lighting, a special holiday tradition started by President and First Lady Johnson. Families will be able to enjoy carolers, a live nativity, Santa Claus, refreshments and the spectacular tree lighting. Visitors can travel the trails and revisit Christmases from the past at Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, which will be decorated in early German-Texan holiday decorations. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., with the tree lighting scheduled for 5:30 p.m., and runs until 8 p.m. Dec. 15.

In the Panhandle, discover the ghosts of Palo Duro Canyon State Park’s past as figures of the canyon’s rich history come to life during a walk back in time. Visitors will be able to hear the voices Charles Goodnight, Isabel Robinson and a Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee, just to name a few. Participants are encouraged to bring red flashlights, water and appropriate clothing for the weather. The event begins at 6 p.m. Dec.14 and tours will meet at the Soapberry Day Use area. Tours will depart at 15-minute intervals and there will be four groups total.

Ray Roberts Lake State Park’s Johnson Unit will be hosting a day of Thanksgiving celebrations beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 23. Families can learn to cook a Dutch oven dish for Thanksgiving this year and try samples of different Dutch oven cuisines. At 11 a.m., there will be crafts and a game hosted in honor of the turkey. The day finishes off with a trap ball turkey tournament at 2 p.m.

Ever wonder how Santa gets around the marsh to visit good little boys and girls? By air boat of course! Santa and Mrs. Claus have booked a cabin at Sea Rim State Park and will be arriving for their stay by air boat. From 3-6 p.m. Dec. 14, kids will have a chance to take a picture with Santa when he arrives and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies at the park. Children can also make homemade ornaments during this marshy Christmas event. Entrance fees are waived for the event or visitors can arrive early and pay entrance fees to visit the beach before Santa arrives.

At the Starr Family Home State Historic Site, visitors can celebrate the holiday season from 10 a.m.-noon Dec. 7 with craft making, story time and cookie making the whole family can take part in.

For more information about holiday activities at Texas State Parks, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. A full calendar is available online on the TPWD calendar page. For activities at THC’s State Historic Sites, visit the Texas Historical Commission website.

Photos of past holiday events are available on the TPWD Flickr page.

Also, for those residents who want to bring Texas State Parks home for the holidays, for more than 15 years, the annual park Christmas ornament has featured some of the most recognizable Texas State Parks landscapes. The 2019 ornament introduces a redesigned ornament style. The metal ornament features photo-quality artwork in stunning color with rich, laser-etched textures and detail.

This year, the ornament depicts the iconic Lighthouse, a geological structure in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Located south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, this majestic park is home to the nation’s second largest canyon.

The annual Christmas ornament can be purchased exclusively online for $19.95 each. Purchase by Dec. 10 for likely arrival before Christmas. Tax and shipping fees apply.

Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is also offering a special subscription deal for the holidays. Anyone can give two gift subscriptions to the magazine for just $15. Don’t want to feel left out? Give yourself the gift of the outdoors for an additional $5.

Subscriptions can be ordered online.

Wyler Aerial Tramway public input survey ends October 21

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is conducting a feasibility study to determine the future of the Wyler Aerial Tramway.

El Paso residents have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, October 21 to provide input on the project.

“It’s a piece of El Paso’s identity, and a big part of our history. It was a very popular destination up until it ceased operation,” said Eric Pearson, president of the El Paso Community Foundation. “Thanks to our lawmakers in Austin, especially Senator Jose Rodriguez and State Representative Lina Ortega, we now all have an opportunity to work on a new concept.”

The Wyler Aerial Tramway, which averaged 45,000 visitors a year, was closed to the public indefinitely in 2018 due to safety concerns. It was built in 1959 by broadcast pioneer and KTSM TV and radio station owner Karl O. Wyler, who opened it to the public in 1960. It closed in 1986 due to high insurance costs.

Mr. Wyler willed it to the El Paso Community Foundation, which donated the newly renamed Wyler Aerial Tramway and 170 surrounding acres to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The tramway reopened in 2001 as part of the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Sen. Rodriguez and Rep. Ortega were instrumental this summer in securing $5 million toward renovation of the tramway.

The bilingual online survey is available online; community feedback is important to the effort to reopen the tramway.

Graffiti clean-up on Ron Coleman Trail at Franklin Mountains State Park set for April 13

The rocky, rugged, sun-bathed and wind-battered “Ron Coleman Trail” has fallen victim to taggers and now a coalition of groups looks to clean up the man-made mess.

The Frontera Land Alliance, the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, the employees of the Franklin Mountains State Park (FMSP), the City of El Paso’s Graffiti Removal Department and several local conservation groups have organized to remove all graffiti from the Ron Coleman Trail.

The trail-wide clean up is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, 2019.

FMSP Superintendent Cesar Mendez has noted that “Graffiti on our trails is an ongoing and extensive problem, very difficult to keep up with.  We do not have the manpower or resources to fully tackle this problem and remove everything.”

Via a news release, officials added, “We’re being supported in our efforts by UTEP’s Project Move Day as well as many members of the community at large.

The two ends of the Ron Coleman are the most challenging and problematic parts of the trail, thanks to their relatively easy access by ‘taggers.’

“But sadly we’ve been seeing graffiti in other areas of the park as well. We’ve assigned more park staff to patrolling after hours so we can deter this illegal activity,” he said.

Mendez is also asking hikers and visitors who see any suspicious activity in the park to “please let us know right away so we can send in our rangers.”

The Franklins are home to over a hundred miles of scenic desert trails. One of them is the Ron Coleman Trail.

The “Ron Coleman” (named for El Paso’s then-State Representative who convinced the Legislature to purchase the State Park property for over $25 million in 1979) is widely considered the centerpiece of the Franklins, stretching between two canyons along the ridgeline.

For more info, visit the park’s website.

El Paso Preservation and Conservation Committee Seeking Comments on Planning Document

The Preservation and Conservation Plan Committee is asking residents to chime in on a report dealing with the plan for preservation of parts of the Franklin Mountains in and around the city.

In response to a “We the People” petition that gathered 6,252 signatures supporting the preservation of public lands in northwestern and northeastern portions of the Franklin Mountains, a Preservation and Conservation Plan Committee was established by the Public Service Board (PSB) in late 2015.

Via a news release officials shared that the purpose of the committee was to “establish conservation standards for development and for preservation of PSB managed lands adjacent the mountains and Franklin Mountains State Park.”

The committee was made up of a “diverse mix of community members and backgrounds, all with the goal of ensuring a high quality of life for present and future generations.”  A report was completed and presented to the PSB earlier this year and is now ready for public review.

Officials with the committee say it contains scientific data to assist in decision making about the existing resources managed by El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) and in our region by the City of El Paso as well as organizations, government agencies, individuals, developers and business owners.

The proposed map included in the report (page 3 and included below) identifies lands to be preserved with no disturbances, specific areas to have very limited disturbance, master planned land in the past, and where conservation development may take place.

Conservation development is working with the land keeping the terrain, trails water flow, and wildlife corridors in mind.

To read the report in full and provide comments via a survey, residents can visit the website.  The committee will receive public comments via a survey link until November 30, 2018. Replies may also be mailed to:

The Frontera Land Alliance

3800 N. Mesa St., A2-258,

El Paso, Texas 79902.

Cusp Conference 2013

Franklin Mountains State Park Breaks Ground on New Visitor’s Center

Friday morning, officials with Franklin Mountains State Park broke ground on the new park visitor’s center, kicking off the start of construction for the first facility to be built inside the state park since its establishment in 1979.

Franklin Mountains State Park is perfectly positioned to provide citizens to one of America’s great cities with extraordinary access to the outdoors,” says Texas State Parks Director Brent Leisure.  “We are excited to finally break ground on this long-awaited visitor center which will welcome and orient thousands of park visitors for generations to come.”

Attendees to this morning’s groundbreaking event had a chance to hear from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff, local officials and see artistic renderings of the new visitor’s center.

Speakers at the event included Sen. José Rodriguez, Rep. Joe Moody, Texas State Parks Director Brent Leisure, TPWD Infrastructure Director Jessica Davisson and Franklin Mountains State Park Superintendent Cesar Mendez.

“Constructing a visitor center within the nation’s largest urban wilderness park has been a central goal for many years and we are getting closer to accomplishing it,” says Mendez. “This new facility will be great gift to Franklin Mountains State Park and the local community.”

Soon to be located on the western slopes of the mountains in the park’s Tom Mays Unit, the visitor’s center will house the park’s administrative space and public space both indoors and outdoors.

Exhibits in the new facility will include interpretive material covering the natural and cultural history of the mountains and the park, as well as orientation on the park’s trails, facilities and activities for park visitors. Additionally, there will be a large classroom building to host presentations and educational/interpretive programs for school groups, meetings and gatherings.

“For the past 18 years, the park’s headquarters have been located outside of the state park,” says Mendez. “We envision this brand-new facility enhancing tremendously the access to the park and the visitors’ experiences, as well as improving the overall park operations. This important project was possible thanks to the invaluable support from the local community and state leadership.”

The almost 27,000-acre park has more than 130 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails for visitors to recreate. The Tom Mays Unit is the only area within the park with picnic sites, campsites, and composting restrooms.

North Franklin Peak, located at an elevation of 7,192 feet over sea level is the highest point on the mountain range. Also located within the park are small natural springs that offer an oasis for animals and park visitors in the desert landscape.

For more information about Franklin Mountains State Park, visit the parks’ webpage

Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta Celebrates Natural Wonders of the Franklin Mountains Saturday

The 13th Annual Chihuahuan Desert Fiesta at the Tom Mays section of Franklin Mountains State Park is planned for Saturday, September 30, from 9am to 3pm.

The free family event helps people connect with the great outdoors of the Franklin Mountains and is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of volunteers from the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition. Organizes say the annual event attracts hundreds of people to the desert mountain park in Northwest El Paso.

The outdoor venue celebrates the natural wonders of the Chihuahuan Desert and Franklin Mountains State Park. Local environmental education groups will be on hand to offer free demonstrations, guided tours, guest speakers and informational booths designed to introduce the curious to the wonders of our fascinating desert.

Schedule of Events at the Entertainment Stage Area – End of the Loop Road next to the Exhibitor Tent Area

· 9:00am-9:15am- National Anthem
· 9:30am-10:00am- Cheerleading
· 10:00am-10:15am Zoo Animal Encounter
· 10:30am-11:00am- Story Telling(Marylyn Guida)
· 11:10am-11:35am- Martial Arts Demonstration
· 11:45am-12:15pm-Keyboarding/Piano
· 12:30pm-1:00pm- Rondalla Estudiantil
· 1:15pm-1:45pm- Ballet Folklorico (Champion Studio)
· 2:00pm-2:30pm- Belly Dancers

More on Geosciences Education Activities – Mini-field trips will run from 9am to 3pm, and will last only 30 minutes, with one exception. The short time means you will not be walking far. The geosciences do not only about understand the earth at your feet, but the vistas in the distance, and the sky above us.

Many of the following field trips may include a walk to a nearby place of higher elevation to get a better view. Hikers are encouraged to bring binoculars for the picturesque hike.

All mini-trips with the exception of trips 4 and 6 meet near the Restrooms at the End of the Loop Road to the right of the main stage and exhibit area.

Trip 1- 9:45 am to 10:45 am – Agave Loop for hikers interested in connecting to Mundy’s Gap.  See Park Map for Location.

Trip 2-10:30 am to 12:00 pm- Aztec Cave Trail is a 1.2 mile out and back trail that features a cave and is good for all skill levels.  See Park Map for Location.

Trip 3 – 11:00 am- 11:30pm- Short walk to elevation change.  Meet at the Trail head at the end of the loop road.

Trip 4 -11:00 am – 12:30pm –  Underground Copper Mine Tour, a maximum number of 15 participants with flashlights or headlamps. Meet at the Cottonwood Spring Parking Area. The hike is 1 mile round trip uphill over a rocky trail. Bring sturdy shoes, sunscreen, water, and a working flashlight. We will explore an underground tunnel which was part of an unsuccessful mineral entrepreneurial activity. Check out the blue grotto! See Park Map for Location.

Trip 5 -1:00 pm – 2:30pm –  Underground Copper Mine Tour, a maximum number of 15 participants with flashlights or headlamps. Meet at the Cottonwood Spring Parking Area. The hike is 1 mile round trip uphill over a rocky trail. Bring sturdy shoes, sunscreen, water, and a working flashlight. We will explore an underground tunnel which was part of an unsuccessful mineral entrepreneurial activity. Check out the blue grotto! See Park Map for Location.

Trip 6 -1:30 pm to 2:30 pm Upper Sunset Trail; is one of the shorter ones (1.3 miles) and offered some great views of the valley below.  Meet at the restrooms at the end of the loop road.

Trip 7- 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm Short Hike.  No elevation change. Meet at the Trail head at the end of the loop road.

Exhibitors attending the festival this year include New Mexico Farm, Ranch and Heritage Museum, Chamizal National Memorial, Hueco Tanks State Park, Aerial Tramway, Franklin Mountains State Park, Mexican Gray Wolf,  El Paso Parks and Recreation, Tech H2O, El Paso Zoo, International Boundary and Water Commission, Sierra Club, Women’s Voting, Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, Greater Big Bend Coalition, Frontera Land Alliance, Texas Master Naturalist, UTEP, El Paso Fire Department, Sustainability and Resilience Office, Audubon Society, and Friends of the Rio Bosque.

Special thanks to our volunteers from the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition, Franklin Mountains State Park, City of El Paso Parks and Rec, El Paso Zoo, University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

For more information contact Franklin Mountains State Park at (915) 566-6441 or contact CDEC Committee Chair Carlos Rodriguez at 915-240-3311.

Wyler Aerial Tramway Celebrates 16 Year Anniversary of Reopening

Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State Park is celebrating its 16 year anniversary since its reopening and the public is invited to join the festivities Saturday, March 18, noon to 4 p.m.

Park visitors will be able to partake in interpretive tours, win door prizes, visit several educational exhibits and local food vendors, and enjoy live entertainment. The event is free and tramway rides are $8 for adults and $4 for children.

The Wyler Aerial Tramway first opened to the public in 1960 as El Paso Aerial Tramway. Fifteen years later it was established as a Texas State Park and reopened in 2001 as Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park.

The park features gondola rides, hiking trails and a 360-degree panoramic view of some 7,000 square miles covering two countries and three states.

Parking for the event will be at Bien Vivir Senior Services, 2300 McKinley Ave., El Paso. Roundtrip shuttle services will transport visitors to and from the parking area.

Regular park hours are Friday and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the site, contact Wyler Aerial Tramway at 915-562-9899.

Congressman O’Rourke introduces National Monument Act to protect Castner Range

In a Wedensday afternoon Facebook post, El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced that he filed a bill to protect a wide swath of land in the city’s Northeast area, once used as a target range by the U.S. Army.

O’Rourke said, “Castner Range is the crown jewel of West Texas. It deserves to be protected and preserved in its natural state. Today I introduced the Castner Range National Monument Act. This bill would protect Castner Range in perpetuity by making it a national monument.”

Photo: UTEP
Photo: UTEP

The range, some 7,000-plus acres is surrounded by the Franklin Mountains State Park. According to the Department of Defense’s website, in 1926 the government first purchased 3,500, followed by almost 5,000 acres more in 1939. Once the range was opened, the Army set up several firing ranges for mortars, artillery, rockets and grenades fired by rifles.

By the mid-70’s, the Army began selling portions of the range to the City of El Paso, while sweeping the thousands of acres for unexploded ordnance.  Signs still warn the public about the potential for some unexploded devices in the area, now within walking distance of homes and businesses.

In his Facebook statement, O’Rourke goes on to state that, “The bill is the result of a community effort led by the frontera land alliance, the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition and other environmental community leaders who have been working to protect Castner Range since the 1970’s.”

On their respective websites, both the Frontera Land Alliance and the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition (FMWC) laud the introduction of the bill.

A statement on FMWC states,  “Thank you Congressman Beto O’Rourke for introducing the Castner Range National Monument Act today! Everyone in our City and the country appreciates your help in protecting our natural world for future generations to enjoy.”

The video above was produced by the Frontera Land Alliance and local historian Jackson Polk in 2014.

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