The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will join with the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and local communities to christen the latest Texas Paddling Trail. The 10:30 a.m. event at Village Creek State Park is one of numerous events commemorating Texas Travel Rally Day being celebrated statewide on May 11.

Village Creek State Park marks the end of the 21-mile paddling trail that begins at FM 418 and includes four access points as it snakes through an ecologically diverse riparian corridor within the Big Thicket. It is the 19th trail in the Texas Paddling Trail Program that launched in 1998 with the first Texas coastal trail. More than a dozen more paddling trails are scheduled to open this year.

"In terms of popularity, paddling may very well become the birding of the 21st century," says Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's executive director. "The creation of paddling trails serves as one more way to encourage people to get outdoors and travel our great state, and in the process, stimulate local economies with tourism dollars. The bottom line is that travel matters to all Texans."

Smith also will use the occasion to announce the recent completion of a land deal that adds roughly 1,420 acres of undeveloped timberland to the 1,090-acre state park. TPWD's purchase of the acreage from The Conservation Fund will protect critical habitat from urban encroachment, connect the state park to Big Thicket National Preserve property and help expand outdoor recreational opportunities.

TPWD's leader is one of a handful of local and state dignitaries, including Rep. Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton (R-Mauriceville), slated to attend the May 11 trail launch. Community partners include the Big Thicket National Preserve, Village Creek State Park, The Nature Conservancy and the Kountze, Lumberton and Silsbee chambers of commerce.

The Village Creek Paddling Trail launch is one of more than a dozen tourism events being held in cities throughout the state to celebrate TexasTravel and Tourism Week, May 8-16, which coincides with National Travel and Tourism Week. The events call attention to the importance of travel and tourism in Texas, an industry that in 2008 generated $60 billion in travel spending and supported 544,400 jobs. That same year, visitors to Hardin County where Village Creek State Park is located, spent$676 million, according to The Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism.

Paddlers along Village Creek's wooded, riparian corridor will discover why the Big Thicket area is known as the "Biological Crossroads of America." It contains more species of plants and animals than any similar-sized area in North America. Canoeing or kayaking Village Creek, with its sugar-white sandbars, provides visitors with an excellent opportunity to fish, swim, picnic and camp, as well as observe and photograph wildlife in a serene, primordial setting.

The Texas Paddling Trails program helps promote habitat conservation through sustainable economic development, while providing additional recreational opportunities to the public. More Americans paddle (canoe, kayak or raft) than play soccer, making it one of the fastest-growing nature tourism experiences.

Media Contacts: 

Rob McCorkle, TPWD, (830) 866-3533 or
Shelly Plante, TPWD, (512)389-4500 or

Note to Media:

Following the 10:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, reporters and photographers are invited to paddle a short segment of the Village Creek Paddling Trail. To reserve a complimentary canoe and life jacket, contact Tammy Melvin, Lumberton Chamber of Commerce, at(409) 755-0554, or e-mail: