Herald/Steven Doll - Attendees make their way through the buffet lines to get their food during the dinner Thursday evening in Lampasas.

By Holly Wise

Killeen Daily Herald

LAMPASAS - Lampasas residents turned out in force Thursday night during a fish fry fundraiser to support the creation of a nature park.

The fish fry was donated by Lampasas resident Susan Cornwell and sponsored by Vision Lampasas!

"Vision Lampasas! nabbed onto this because my husband's a birder," said Dianna Hodges, president of Vision Lampasas! "I wanted Vision Lampasas! to make it happen; lots of people are excited about it and interested in donating to it."

The 16-acre complex was donated to the city by Rex and Linda Johnson of Lampasas.

"They wanted it reserved especially for birds and butterflies, to be a natural park," Hodges said.

Lampasas Director of Parks and Recreation Micky Tower said the park will not contain manmade items and will be naturally preserved.

"We will maintain trails by mowing only, and the trails will meander all through the 16-acre complex," he said. "This is an ongoing living project."

A butterfly and bird garden will serve as a habitat to 51 species of birds that Hodges' husband has identified in the past year.

Some of the unusual sightings were woodpeckers, a great-crested flycatcher, a green heron, yellow-billed cuckoo, clay-colored sparrow and gold finches, she said.

"They've already started clearing out non-desirable plants like poison ivy and mesquite trees," Hodges said.

The park is on Hackberry Street and is open to the public.

"It's open now, but it's just in the beginning phases so there's really no trail markers," she said.

Tower said a fence will be constructed to keep deer out of the complex.

"They're going to try and fence out the deer, which are lovely, but they eat the good stuff and leave the bad stuff," Hodges said.

A total of 100 tickets were sold for the fish fry, but Hodges said 120 people showed up.

Killeen resident Randy Sutton fried 60 pounds of fish and served the usual trimmings of hushpuppies, fries, coleslaw and beans. Sutton donates 20 to 30 fish fries a year to various fundraising organizations. He donated this fish fry to a public television station. It was purchased by Cornwell, who in turn, donated it to Vision Lampasas!

Sutton shows up at events prepared with his fish-frying rig on a 20-foot-long gooseneck trailer.

"Really and truly, I do a lot of these," he said.

His dinners have helped raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Harker Heights athletic teams and boosters.

Lampasas Mayor Judith Hetherly donated a camera to be auctioned as part of the fundraiser. Hodges auctioned off the services of her husband and fellow-birder Harrell Clary to conduct a birding tour.

Hetherly said the park will serve the community as a tourist attraction.

"(Johnson Park) is going to be uniquely different from anything else we have in the city," she said. "It will complement what we have in the city as far as the parks system."

Cooper Springs is located within the boundaries of Johnson Park, providing another unique aspect to the nature park.

"What we intend to do is eventually clean some of the grasses out of it so people can literally see the spring," Hetherly said.

The fish fry was hosted by My Girls Restaurant in downtown Lampasas.

"They just asked us and we said that's fine," said owner Todd Briggs. "This is a special occasion and we're doing it in the evening so it wouldn't interfere with our normal serving of food."

The park will become part of Lampasas' eight-park system, which includes a tennis park and baseball field.

"The Johnson Park will be all nature," Hetherly said. "There will be a walking trail but everything will, in essence, be in its natural state."

Contact Holly Wise at hwise@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7474.

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