Texas roadside parks were a big part of my childhood. I’d hate to try to estimate the number of bologna sandwiches I consumed at a concrete picnic table under an oak tree. But as interstates replaced state and U.S. highways, stops at roadside parks were replaced by less bucolic stops in large rest areas. I see fewer roadside parks on my travels these days.
But there is one roadside park that I see each week. It’s on Texas Highway 16, just southeast of Bandera on the way to San Antonio. I’ll pull in here when I need to kill a few minutes before a scheduled event and I sometimes eat a quick lunch, but I seldom get out of the car and the air conditioning.
One day it occurred to me that I had driven past this park at least 2500-3000 times over the 17 years I’ve lived in the area. That number could be doubled if I count passing the park going both ways in a round trip. But I’d never really given the park the attention it deserved. So I got out and wandered around.
I’d seen this dedication marker but it had suffered the fate of most of the roadside historical markers I see: I’d never actually looked at it. It turns out this park looks like the classic roadside park I remember because it is of that generation. TXDOT has a detailed history of the parks and the building project began in the 1930s, so this 1936 dedication was in the early years. There was a big push to construct parks to mark the 1936 Texas Centennial.
The park is a pleasant little stopping place and it gets good use. It’s not unusual to see a few vehicles there and I often see folks eating, reading, or just resting at the picnic tables. The oak trees cast wonderful shade, despite the oak wilt a few of the trees are suffering. The trees have hung in there for a long time, so I’m hopeful they will make it for many years to come.
I don’t stop here every week but I’d miss it if I lost the opportunity to take a shady break on a hot Texas afternoon. It beats an interstate rest area hands down.
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