Spring Fest highlights Lake Ray Roberts State Park
By Basil Gist
The rangers at Ray Roberts Lake State Park Johnson Branch rang in spring with a vendor event focused on the partnerships that make their park and state parks in general happen.
Spring Fling, this year one of the centennial events for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, saw a beautiful day in the woods dotted with park guests learning more about what makes their recreational spaces tick.
“It’s important for us to bring them out here and maintain those partnerships, because without them, state parks wouldn’t be what they are today,” Park Interpreting Ranger Izzy Mabry said. “It’s an amazing event.”
From master naturalists to game wardens and ham radio operators, over 100 guests have opportunity to learn more about the various organizations that make their parks operate, starting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which, in essence, owns the spaces.
The officers from the Corps were focused on water safety on Saturday.
“One of our main missions is promoting water safety, so getting out to teach kids how to put on a life jacket and give them some goodies is nice,” park ranger Chandler Sanford said. “We preach our message to the public and hope they can pass it on.”
Also having to do with the water, representatives from the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center were present to explain how they fit into the puzzle that is making parks run.
“We’re charged with monitoring the fish populations and making sure there’s enough fish to go around and that they’re safe and healthy to eat,” Corey Clouse said.
Helping to monitor and educate on the land around the water was Fran Witte and the Texas Master Naturalists.
“It gives us an opportunity to talk to the public about nature conservation and the importance of that,” Witte said before pointing out the artifacts acting as paper weights on the display table. “We knew people were going to be bringing out skulls and pelts and things, so we brought out the insects with a magnifying glass so the kids could get up close and personal.”
Monitoring the people using that land, as well as protecting the critters who live on it, are the game wardens, whom Stormy McCuistion represented.
“A lot of folks don’t understand what we do as game wardens, but this gives them more of an idea,” McCuistion said. “It’s not just the kids; it’s adults that learn to. [Events like this help] make people aware not only of what we do and of what’s out there.”
Among the trails that cut through the land is the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association Trail, maintained by DORBA members and volunteers like Darby Stewart.
“To maintain the trail, we’ve got to do a lot of spring trimming because we don’t want people to get whacked,” Stewart said. “Water is my number one challenge on the trail; water damages the trail more than anything. If it’s not drained, it can leave ruts which take longer to dry the next time, [and] you can’t just close a part of the trail. It’s all or nothing.”
Additionally, folks like David Gilpin and Steve Darrah from the Metrocrest Amateur Radio Society connect the parks both to themselves and others via technology like the ham radio.
“There’s been a renewed interest in a lot of technology, including ham radio,” Gilpin said before explaining the communication alternative’s value in natural spaces where cell service is still spotty at best.
Mabry pressed the value not only of the education each of these organizations were willing to provide during the Spring Fling, surrounded by activities and games for kids, but also of their partnership with the rangers of TPWD.
“They’re what makes us strong,” Mabry said. “We’re a giant family.”