As we celebrate the centennial of Texas State Parks, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) is excited to share two of our online exhibits—as you plan your next trip, check out some history. Our digitized photographs, maps, state planning documents, and more are freely accessible online from anywhere, 24/7!
Every Texan who has ever pitched a tent, paddled a canoe, roasted a marshmallow, or sat around a cracking campfire swapping stories until the wee hours of the night has a favorite Texas State Park. With 54 state parks peppered throughout Texas ranging from the towering sandstone formations of Palo Duro in the panhandle to the otherworldly underground landscape found at Longhorn Caverns nestled in the hill country, it is easy to say that there is no shortage of excuses to lace up your hiking boots, grab some granola, and get inspired by Texas’ great outdoors.
So, before you load up the airstream or start stocking up on hot dog buns, check out our exhibit Setting Up Camp (tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits/parks). Originally on view in the lobby of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in 2016-2017, the entire exhibit is duplicated on the TSLAC website.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office on March 4, 1933, he faced a nation that was looking to him for relief from the Great Depression. One in every four workers was unemployed. Millions of Americans had lost their savings and homes. Roosevelt proposed a series of relief programs to help stabilize the economy known as the New Deal. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of the first New Deal programs created. Its goal was to preserve the nation’s natural resources while employing millions. CCC enrollees worked on projects related to soil conservation, forestry, flood control, and land conservation. CCC enrollees were men between the ages of 17 and 28 unmarried, unemployed and out of school. The CCC’s legacy helped to develop state parks across the United States. In Texas, the CCC developed 56 state, national, and local parks and employed over 50,000 Texans from 1933 to 1942. Gain a better understanding of the vision of our greatest shared natural resources though hand-drawn park blueprints, vintage tourism guides, period promotional photographs, and more—all compiled from the collections of the Texas State Archives.
In 1923, Governor Pat Neff created the Texas State Parks Board thereby establishing the Texas State Parks system. Neff favored building parks for Texans who loved to travel, camp, and explore outdoors over the idea of preserving beautiful locales across Texas. Board members traveled around the state promoting the idea of a park system. Our only-online exhibit To Love the Beautiful: The Story of Texas State Parks (www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/parks) details the early history of Texas’ parks and continues through their “Golden Age” in the 1960s. This exhibit is rich with historical information about the crucial establishing work of the State Parks Board in the 1920s; New Deal-era issues such as funding issues, internal politics, segregation, and, finally, how World War II changed the expectations Texans had for their parks, which ultimately led to the creation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in 1963. This led to a tripled budget for state parks under Governor John Connally, and by the end of the decade, the system boasted some 130 parks. In the past 50 years, TPWD has tackled many challenges, including but not limited to park renovations, desegregation, wildlife management and conservation, accelerating technology, and the soaring popularity of the parks among Texans and out-of-state visitors alike.
TSLAC regularly exhibits treasures from its collections in the lobby of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building. We encourage you to visit to see these pieces of history for yourself. Of course, we understand that not everyone is able to stop by 1201 Brazos Street in Austin, so we’ve digitized most of what we display for you to view online. Please feel free to browse our current
and previous exhibits at tsl.texas.gov/lobbyexhibits.