Galveston Island State Park to Host Texas Outdoor Family Outings

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Galveston Island State Park to Host Texas Outdoor Family OutingsAUSTIN, Texas — If you’ve been wanting to take the family on a camping trip, but weren’t quite sure how to put up a tent, what equipment to take and where to go to camp, the Texas Outdoor Family program is right up your alley. The first Texas state park-hosted TOF pilot program will be held on Aug. 4-5 at Galveston Island State Park. Huntsville State Park will host a TOF workshop Sept. 13-14.

Holding the Texas Outdoor Family overnight workshops in state parks represents an expansion of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program that began two years ago at local parks in various cities across the state. The purpose of the program is to educate people and inspire future overnight camping and the use of state parks.

“State parks are the perfect venue to do these programs because they offer individual campsites for families, ample facilities, professional park personnel and a safe environment,” said Chris Holmes, TOF state park coordinator. “Studies have suggested that people simply are hesitant to go camping in the outdoors or don’t really know how to. There is interest, but there’s a knowledge gap.”

Another summer TOF workshop will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 13-14 at Bastrop State Park near Austin. This fall, the overnight workshops move to weekends with Huntsville State Park hosting a Sept. 13-14 program. A TOF workshop returns to Galveston Island State Park on Sept. 20-21.

Families can register by calling (512) 389-8903 and speaking to a Texas Outdoor Family representative for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Alternatively, families can send an e-mail to tofsp [at] tpwd [dot] state [dot] tx [dot] us to sign up. After registering, participants will be mailed a confirmation packet with directions and details on what to bring.

Though TOF curriculum content varies slightly from park to park, campers can learn about the outdoors from park rangers and interpretive specialists, how to set up a tent, how to use a camp stove and lantern safely, and other basic outdoor skills, such as paddling and fishing. All camping equipment is being provided thanks to TOF sponsor Toyota. Registrants must bring their own food to cook outdoors. Families will receive a suggested camp menu and shopping list. There is a 16-family maximum per workshop. The cost is $55 per family for up to eight people.

The thrust of the TOF program is to help address what has been termed “Nature Deficit Disorder” that affects many urban children, as well as adults, who have become disconnected from the natural world. The term first gained notoriety 2006 after the publishing of Richard Louv’s 2006 groundbreaking book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”

“We’ve noticed over the past few years a trend throughout the nation and Texas that families aren’t tent camping as much as they once did,” Holmes said. “We recognize that many people in today’s increasingly urban culture don’t have the same skills or backgrounds as earlier generations of Texans.”

Holmes adds that another key component of the TOF program is introducing families to land and water stewardship through such activities as picking up trash, building bird boxes and removing invasive species “to give them an idea of what it means to work in conservation and educate them about what state parks try to do.”