AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas State Parks system is being recognized as one of the best in the nation, being named one of four finalists for the 2023 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management.
With millions of visitors annually, Texas’ 87 state parks offer everything from canyons, lakes, mountains and swamps. This year is even more special, as the agency celebrates 100 years since its creation in 1923.
Meteorologist Kristen Currie spoke with Rodney Franklin, director of Texas State Parks, to learn how the parks earned the recognition. Below is a transcript of their conversation (edits have been made for clarity).
Kristen Currie, KXAN News: To talk to me about that recognition is Director of Texas State Parks Rodney Franklin. Rodney, this is cool! Talk to me about this award that Texas State Parks is now a finalist for.
Rodney Franklin, Texas State Parks: I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the National Recreation and Parks Association and the American Academy for Parks and Recreation Administration recognize Texas State Parks as one of the top four state park systems in the nation. We are a finalist for the Gold Medal Award for Excellence.
Currie: Rodney, what goes into this award? How did we become a finalist?
Franklin: Well, there’s a rigorous application process, and we talk about everything the state park systems in Texas do so well. We’ve got a great team. They’re educating and connecting visitors to our state parks with education programs. Our volunteerism — we have over 385,000 hours from volunteers that help Texas state parks, stewarding the sites, taking care of our sites. We have biologists that take care of the natural resources, we have historians and archaeologists taking care of the cultural resources, and just our overall customer service. We are the best in the nation, in my opinion, at doing all of those things well, so it was that collective of all those things that made us a finalist.
Currie: Who’s our competition? Who are we going up against?
Franklin: There are four other states, and they’re all great. Missouri State Parks, Ohio and Wyoming. And I know those directors, and there’s a little healthy competition going on, and they do a great job. All of them are very well-deserving to be finalists. But obviously, I’m a little biased because I think Texas state parks deliver and connect people to the outdoors and have been taking care of the sites for 100 years. This is our centennial year, and I think we do it better than anybody in the nation.
Currie: We have a lot to celebrate — 100 years and being one of four finalists for this national recognition. Rodney Franklin, thank you so much for joining us today.
For more information on Texas State Parks and its centennial celebrations, click here.