Mother Neff State Park, located in the Waco, Texas area, has been awarded the Lone Star Legacy Park designation by the Texas Recreation and Parks Society (TRAPS). The park is the only state park to receive the award from the seven parks nominated this year. The Lone Star Legacy Park designation recognizes parks that hold a special place in the local community and the state. Parks must be at least 50 years old and meet specific criteria, including representing distinctive design and/or construction, being associated with historic events or sites, or being home to unique natural features.
Isabella E. Neff, who was known as “Mother Neff,” envisioned her acreage near the Leon River as a place for the public to gather, rest, and recreate. She left the Neff Picnic Grounds to the public in her will. Neff was the mother of Pat M. Neff, Governor of Texas from 1921 to 1925, who established the Texas State Parks Board in 1923. Between 1934 and 1938, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company #817 constructed buildings, structures, recreational facilities, roads, and trails for the park. Today, the park serves as a community and family gathering spot, as well as an outdoor classroom for natural science studies for area schools and universities.
Other parks recognized by TRAPS this year include Pan American Neighborhood Park, Austin; Veterans Park, Boerne; Bunche Park, Fort Worth; Thomas Park, Katy; Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, and Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, Tyler. TRAPS is a non-profit 501(c)3 professional and educational organization founded in 1937 with a membership of more than 2,000 parks and recreation professionals.
Mother Neff State Park’s Lone Star Legacy designation is a recognition of its unique history and contribution to Texas. The park’s scenic drive, trail system, and diverse wildlife provide an enjoyable experience for all visitors. The award helps cement the park’s status as an important public park for Texans and visitors from beyond the state.
Mother Neff State Park: A Haven for Nature and History Enthusiasts
Mother Neff State Park, located southwest of Waco, is one of Texas’ earliest state parks. Donated by Isabella Neff in 1921, the park has been a special place for Texans to unwind for over a century. Visitors can hike, picnic, camp, geocache, and observe nature. The park offers nearly 3.5 miles of trails for beginners to more experienced trekkers, leading to various historical and natural sites, such as the Wash Pond, the CCC Rock Tower, and a cave used by the Tonkawa Indian tribe in the 1800s.
In 2015, a new camping loop and visitor center opened to allow the park to remain open, even when the Leon River floods the lower end of the park. The camping loop has 20 full hookup sites with water, sewer, and 50/30-amp electricity, level cement pads, and a large gathering area with a fire pit and picnic table. Visitors can also stay in the lodge with a campsite. The park store at headquarters offers souvenirs and supplies.
Mother Neff State Park’s visitor center has interactive displays to educate visitors on the park’s rich history, including its connection to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC built many of the facilities at the park, such as park roads, the concession building, and the lookout/water tower. Park rangers offer nature and history programs, and kids aged four to 12 can become junior rangers by completing a set of activities to earn a badge and certificate.
The park’s unique natural environment, including the prairie and forest settings and the Leon River, provides outdoor classrooms for natural science studies for area schools and universities. Visitors can also participate in the park’s prairie restoration project, which aims to maintain and improve the health of the native prairies and grasslands.
For more information on Mother Neff State Park, visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mother-neff or call (254) 853-2389.