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May 6, 2010
Cedar Hill State Park Keeps Up with the Joneses Through Full-Service Campsites
CEDAR HILL — In 1854, when John Penn moved into the Cedar Mountains 20 miles southwest of a tiny new community called Dallas, using electricity to run a home was not even an idea, much less an option.
When the site of the Penn family farm became Cedar Hill State Park 137 years later, in 1991, visitors who came by the thousands in RVs were traveling in mobile homes dependent on plentiful electric power to energize their perfect camping experience. The park was ready for them with lots of 30-amp hook-ups, plenty of power for all their equipment.
But only 19 years later, most new RVs require 50 amps to get their occupants through the night with modern conveniences such as microwaves and satellite television. As one of the busiest parks in the Texas Parks and Wildlife system, with 275,000 visitors last year, Cedar Hill can’t afford not to keep pace with the changes.
"We will be upgrading the electrical hook-ups from 30-amp to 50-amp in the Lakeview and Eagle Ford camping loops," says project manager Jeff Wurzbach, "and making them full-service loops by adding sewer service. They already have water."
Thanks to bond funding authorized by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, early this fall TPWD will be upgrading about 150 sites to 50-amp pedestals and sewer service. Also, in keeping with TPWD efforts statewide to make parks more accessible to all, Cedar Hill’s headquarters building will be getting new restrooms that are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.
The approximately $3.5 million in upgrades at Cedar Hill puts another checkmark on a long list of major Texas State Parks rejuvenation projects underway this year, all aimed at keeping the parks fun, safe and customer friendly. Texas State Parks general obligation bonds have been sold to fund more than $44 million in repairs and renovations to park cabins, bathrooms, electrical and water systems, and other state park infrastructure. Along with fixing up more than 40 state parks, the bonds provide an additional $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas.
Along with fixing up more than 40 state parks, the bonds provide an additional $25 million to dry berth the Battleship Texas, taking the proud veteran of two World Wars out of the corrosive water of the Houston Ship Channel.
Cedar Hill is an extremely successful blend of Texas State Park getaway and near-urban location. Park Superintendent Mike Spradling compares it to Central Park for New York City.
Only 22 miles from downtown Dallas and 28 miles from Fort Worth, it is close enough for an after-work ride on its excellent bike trails or even a long picnic lunch break. The park has more than 200 picnic tables with grills, and three playgrounds. Harried Dallasites can make this quick escape in less than 30 minutes, if traffic cooperates.
But the 355 RV-ready campsites, all close to the shores of 7,500-acre Joe Pool Reservoir, attest to the many folks who consider Cedar Hill worthy of camping. In addition to electricity and water, each site has a fire ring and picnic table, and is near a bathroom and hot shower.
For those hardy campers willing to disdain "new-fangled" electricity, the park also offers 30 primitive sites.
Biking is another of the Cedar Hill’s major attractions.
"We have Dallas Off-Road Biking Association trails," says Assistant Park Superintendent Joshua Choate. "DORBA built them in the early 1990s. We have cooperation from them and they do the majority of the maintaining.
"We have two hiking and biking trails. In addition to the five camping loops, we have three day use loops. We’ve got a full service marina."
Fishing also proves a big draw, and if you don’t want to cast from a boat, there are several fishing piers and fish-cleaning stations along the shores of the 1,826-acre park.
Those who appreciate history will be delighted to find that the Penn Farm is still on site, in reconstructed and historic buildings. Daily self-guided tours honor Texas’ long and noble farming heritage, and help modern-day folks, city dwellers and rural residents alike, learn about farm life of more than 150 years ago.
The photogenic Penn farm buildings are located in the south section of Cedar Hill State Park, close to the interestingly named Hog Wallow Camping area.
Despite its suburban location this is still an oasis of nature in a concrete-laden environment. Just witness the more than 200 species of birds that have found their way here to be added to the official park list. One of Texas most beautiful and popular birds, the painted bunting, is plentiful in Cedar Hill through most of the summer.
In the shadow of skyscrapers, Cedar Hill State Park offers a true year-round park experience to attract both traveling out-of-state campers and local day visitors.
Watch the Cedar Hill State Park video on YouTube:
For more information, call the park at 972/291-3900 or check the website:
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