One of the biggest attractions in Hardin County has become the Village Creek State Park. Tourists, visitors and locals alike have come to appreciate the beauty and the uniquemess of this newest addition to the State Park system.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired the property for Village Creek State Park in 1979. Construction on the park began in June 1991 and was completed in October 1994. The park opened its gates to the public on April 20, 1994.
It covers over 1,200 heavily forested acres. The park is located in Lumberton, about ten miles north of Beaumont.
The park takes its name from Village Creek, a free flowing stream which rises near the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation and meanders southwesterly 69 miles to its junction with the Neches River. Rainfall is abundant averaging over 50 inches a year. Temperaatures range from 30 - 60 in thewinter and 80 - 100 in the summer.
The park has several types of campsites with picnic tables, fire rings, lantern hangers, tent pads and benches. There are 25 campsites with water and electric, 17 walk-in sites (with water centrally located), five hike-in primitive sites (no amenities), and a group camping area. The park also has a restroom facility with showers, a group recreation hall, a group picnic pavilion, a playground, 15 picnic sites and sheltered water fountains.
Fees for activities at the park vary on activities. The daily entrance fee is $2 per person.
The Village Creek State Park has been able to make its own niche in the system of Texas' state parks. One interesting point at the park is its state champion River Birch tree. It is the official largest River Birch in the state.
The park rangers also help the National Weather Service keep track of rainfall in the area. Installed at the park's station is an official National Weather Service gauge.
According to John Parker, park manager with Village Creek State Park, the best time of the year (spring and summer) is great camping time, although this past winter saw an increase of visitors to the park.
"We had a great winter, with lots of visitors from places like Canada and Wisconsin camping at the campsites," said Parker. Because there was a mild winter here in Texas, Village Creek State Park had an increase in overnight visitors using the campsites. Parker said the park's trailer sites were usually full with campers most weekends. "We had a lot of 'snow birds' visiting this part of Texas."
Parker added the park has an average about 60,000 visitors a year. The number has been increasing as word gets out about the park. "This is our fifth year, and usually takes a few years before you start seeing more people."
He added that what brings most people to this area to camp is the Big Thicket Preserve. "People like the mystique of the Big Thicket. What makes it so unique is its the only place of its kind in Texas which is normally known for its arid atmosphere."
Park volunteers, along with groups Eagle Scouts, have made major contributions to the success of the park. Benches and shelters in the park have been constructed by Eagle Scouts, while a local bicycle club built the bike trail at the park. "These are perfect examples of what volunteers can do to help the community," added Parker.
Park employees an volunteers at the park work hard to make it a community friendly state park. Along with talks and tours of the park, those that work at the park also go into local classrooms to teach students the importance of nature.
Visitors to the park will find a number of interests at hand. Things to do in the park include camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, wildlife viewing and bird watching. Village Creek State Park has eight miles of trails open for hiking, biking and nature study. Swimming is allowed at a park sandbar. There is about a mile hike to the sand bar and Parker pointed out that this one of the things that makes the park special. "Even if the park is full, there is plenty of room to hike and camp without it feeling crowded."
At least 80 species of birds have been spotted in the park. To help promote more wildlife in the area, Eagle Scouts have built and erected at least a dozen wood duck nest boxes throughout the park.
There are a variety of projects the park will promote during the year, from guided hiking tours, to bird watching are just a few. Currently the park offers guided nature hikes every other Saturday.
Village Creek Park is located in Lumberton. From Interstate 10, north on U.S. Hwy. 96, 10 miles into Lumberton, then watch for directional signs. It is located off Alma Drive. For rates and reservations call 1-512-389-8900 and for information only call 1-800-792-1112. The park also has a Web site at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.