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Loving the outdoors

The Texas Outdoor Family program, founded by a Brit on a mission to get Texans outside

Austin Photo: News_kevin_TPWD_Holmes parks_August 2012_camping
Campers at Caprock Canyons State Park Photo by Rob McCorkle Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Austin Photo: News_kevin_TPWD_Holmes parks_August 2012_blanco tubing
Tubing the Blanco River near Blanco State Park Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

He may not sound like he’s from around here, but Chris Holmes couldn’t be more proud of Texas State Parks than any native born resident. As the Director of Interpretations for Texas State Parks at Texas Parks and Wildlife, Chris aims to get every person he meets outside.

He grew up in the U.K., spending most of his time outdoors. “I grew up in the Peak District National Park in England so I’ve always been around wild places," he says.

Having worked in the national parks in both Australia and New Zealand, Chris found his way to Texas 10 years ago.

 “We have over eight-million visits to a state park every year. We deliver programs to over 800-thousand people so that’s 800-thousand opportunities that we can spread our mission.” 

“The national park system in the U.K. is a bit different than it is here. I think the biggest difference is the sheer size — Texas is a huge state," he said. "My real passion is to get people back into our parks. That’s what I really believe in. I think they are such valuable places in Texas especially Texas being so privately owned.”

To do that, Chris took an existing program called Texas Outdoor Family and cultivated it into a win-win for both the agency and the people of Texas.

“Chris and his staff are out there every weekend, with hundreds and hundreds of families around the state, showing them how to put up a tent, how to cook over a campfire, how to be safe while using the park," explaines Dan Sholly, the Director of Texas State Parks. "Chris almost single-handedly was able to take the Texas Outdoor Family Program and turn it into gold for Texas state parks.”

And that program shows clear success. “We’re running about forty percent of the people that go to the Outdoor Family come back to a state park," says Holmes with some pride. "So that’s real tangible evidence that it’s successful.”

And though he may not be a Texan, he couldn’t be a more proud of his adopted state.

“Last year, I think I camped out 70 nights in a state park," he said, and he wasn’t alone.

“We have over eight-million visits to a state park every year. We deliver programs to over 800-thousand people so that’s 800-thousand opportunities that we can spread our mission.”

More people coming to parks means more money to keep parks open. But is it enough?

“We could never do enough in my mind," said Holmes. "The mission is so important that every one of our employees should be spreading the word and I think they do and I really want to get more advocacy from our state park visitors so that they can help us. They can be ambassadors to get more people outside because I  really believe we were meant to be outside.”

To find out more about Texas Outdoor Family Workshops or other interesting careers at Texas Parks and Wildlife, visit the website at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.

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The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department produces these multi-media reports as an educational resource.

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