• August 22, 2014

Mother Neff State Park just the place to soothe workday blues

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 4:30 am

MOODY — When your nerves are jangled by the urban snarl of slow traffic and hot pavement, it may be time to go and visit Mother.

Nothing soothes the workday blues like a long walk in the fresh outdoors, and the parent of the Texas park system — Mother Neff State Park — is just 40 miles from Killeen.

In 2012, the park expanded to 401 acres and is bustling with work crews adding a new park headquarters, camper stations and cabins.

Hikers, birders and picnicking families who have enjoyed the park for generations will soon see an expansion of outdoor activities such as improved camping facilities, fishing, canoeing and kayaking the Leon River.

“A lot of families like having a place to take their kids where there is no alcohol,” Park Superintendent Leah Huth said.

Mother Neff enjoys strong support from the community, anchored by the Mother Neff State Park Association and a cadre of regular volunteers who pitch in to clear brush or help organize activities for the public.

Having cranked up my chainsaw a few times to help the Central Texas Master Naturalists clear a new path, I know you can meet a lot of nice folks on the volunteer trail.

In 2007, the Leon flooded, leaving tons of dead trees cluttering the park. Slowly but surely, the mess is being cleared.

A few years ago, the state parks started First Day Hike as a way to encourage Texans to start the new year with a brisk walk outdoors. This year, Mother Neff State Park drew the most hikers of any park in Texas.

The park started as a 6-acre picnic spot along the Leon River donated to the public by Isabella “Mother” Neff in 1916.

When she died in 1921, her son, then-Gov. Pat Neff, created Mother Neff Memorial Park, which would become the beginning of the Texas State Park system two years later.

During the Depression, private owners deeded additional land to expand the park to 259 acres to qualify it as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

CCC boys occupied the camp from 1934 to 1938, using hand tools, muscle, sweat, native stone and timber to build the park structures like the rock tabernacle and stone water tower that have become familiar landmarks to visitors.

I am always awed when I see the handiwork of the CCC boys in parks around the country. It makes my monthly chainsaw shift seem piddling by comparison.

For more information about Mother Neff State Park, call 254-853-2389.

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