Archive for July, 2019

Mountain Biking in Texas State Parks

Thursday, July 18th, 2019
A barrel cactus looks on as a mountain biker passes by.

A barrel cactus looks on as a mountain biker passes by.

This is Passport to Texas

With busy schedules and our increasing dependence on technology, we can become disconnected from the natural world. One way to reconnect… is on a mountain bike.

Doing a little wheel true here. Somewhat of a science, somewhat of a art.

Shane McAnally of Canyon Cycles has raced mountain bikes competitively. His love for riding started early.

As a kid in Austin you know having a mountain bike was awesome because I would spend all day down on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It was the best thing ever. People that are into mountain biking, if there’s a place to create trails, the community will rally, and they’ll get trails built and volunteer all the efforts and it’s really cool to see that kind of thing.

That’s exactly what happened at Pedernales Falls State Park.

The sport of mountain biking has grown exponentially in the last few years.

Park Superintendent John Alvis.

Probably about 5 years ago we partnered with Austin Ridge Riders mountain biking group and they helped up build approximately 14 miles of new mountain biking trails. Mountain bikers are a really great use group. The trail that they created follows contour lines in the park, minimizes erosion. So they do as a whole, have a real keen interest in maintaining the resource here at the park.

Life’s better outside, especially on a mountain bike. For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW Magazine: Dancing with Dinosaurs

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019
Mountain Biking at Dinosaur Valley State Park

Mountain Biking at Dinosaur Valley State Park

This is Passport to Texas

Something you learn early on when you take up the sport of mountain biking is this: you’ve got to be brave…you cannot be scared…and you have to tell yourself that you can do it.

In the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, Kathryn Hunter writes about the Texas Interscholastic Mountain Bike League and the annual Dinosaur Dance race at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose. She follows groups of students and their adult coaches as they prep and compete in this challenging event.

Participants come from as far west as Amarillo and Midland and as far east as Houston and Tyler. Teams include students from grades six through 12 and vary widely in the number of members.

You meet some of the riders, and the learn the reasons why they ride, and ways riding is made possible for kids in historically underserved areas.

Kathryn writes: The race loop at Dinosaur Valley is challenging, with steep switchbacks, large ledges and loose, tennis-ball-sized rock.

It’s a great read and may just inspire you to experience nature on two wheels.

Find the article Dancing with Dinosaurs by Kathryn Hunter in the August/September issue of TPW magazine. On Newsstands now.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife… I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Franklin Mountains SP New Visitor Center

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019
Franklin Mountains State park

Franklin Mountains State park

This is Passport to Texas

Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest metropolitan park in the United States. Its majestic peaks overlook the cities of El Paso and Cuidad Juarez. For years the park’s headquarters has been located off site, but that’s all changing with a brand-new visitor center.

What we were trying are trying to achieve with Franklin Mountains visitor center is a place to experience this wonderful geologic feature.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Ben Obregon is the Design Manager on the project. His team ensured the new center would highlight the natural beauty of the park.

You walk in. You’re facing the registration desk and to your right are full height picture windows that frame the biggest peaks in the mountains. So, the views of the mountains from the location are just beautiful.

The new facility features a learning center and a very special interpretive exhibit. According to State Park Exhibit Planner Eric Ray, it’s a first for Texas state parks.

One of the things that we’re doing that we haven’t done before is build this very large terrain model, giving visitors a way to explore the entire mountain range. They can walk around a 3D map of the mountains. See different features of them and either decide what they’re going to do with their day or weekend or decide what they might want to do in the future.

The new visitor center at Franklin Mountains State Park is expected to open this fall.

Our series receives support in part by RAM Trucks: built to serve.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

TPW Magazine: Knock on Wood

Thursday, July 11th, 2019
Pileated woodpecker with young.

Pileated woodpecker with young.

This is Passport to Texas

Cliff Shackelford—the nongame ornithologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife—is one of our favorite guests on Passport to Texas. He’s always upbeat and ready to share interesting birding facts. Plus, the guy’s super passionate about his subject matter.

And in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine—on newsstands now—he tells us about a species that’s held his fascination since he was a youngster, in an article called: Knock on Wood: Why I Love the Woodpeckers of Texas.

In the article Cliff writes: My fascination with woodpeckers has become somewhat of a life’s journey. In graduate school, I wrote a thesis on woodpeckers…I’ve published numerous papers on woodpeckers…I’ve traveled to other countries specifically to observe woodpeckers…Thus, I’ve long considered myself a qualified fan of woodpeckers.

Yeah, I’d have to agree with his self-assessment. In addition, he lets us know about the 16 species of woodpeckers and allies in Texas, which go by a variety of other names including sapsuckers and flickers—but they’re all in the woodpecker family.

He even shares a list of 15 regularly occurring woodpecker species here in Texas, complete with photos.

Get to know Cliff Shackelford and his beloved woodpeckers in the August/September issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. On Newsstands now.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife… I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Aoudad Sheep Study

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
Aoudad Sheep

Photo by Glen Mills, TPWD

This is Passport to Texas

Aoudads, also known as Barbary Sheep, were originally imported to Texas from North Africa as game animal over 50 years ago. But for native species like Mule deer and Desert Bighorn Sheep, the ever-increasing Aoudad population has become a threat.

They pose, not only a competition threat, as far as competition for resource, but they can also be socially disruptive.

Froylan Hernandez is Desert Bighorn program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife. His team initiated a tri-species study to determine if Aoudads could also introduce a disease threat.

This is the first project of its kind of Bighorn Sheep, Mule deer and Aoudad. We’re looking at some of these areas that have Aoudad infestations and taking tissue samples and investigating potential diseases that could pose threats to our native wildlife.

Disease aside, the sheer number of Aoudad have already changed the landscape.

Sometimes we’ll see them in herds of two to three hundred in one herd and so they can definitely degrade the habitat rather quickly. And it’s almost like a gravel bed out on the hillside. It’s peeled, I mean essentially bare ground.

The study will provide valuable information to biologists and help educate landowners on the importance of managing Aoudad populations.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.