Integrating infrastructure into the existing natural landscape was a driving force behind R. G. Miller Engineers’ roadway design for the Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, currently under development as a joint project of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
The park land, located 75 miles west of Fort Worth and east of Abilene, will be Texas’ first state park in nearly two decades. It is being developed on 4,400 acres of former ranch land and features several 1,400-foot peaks, two tree-lined creeks, and majestic views. Once finished, the park will support a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, swimming, fishing, biking, camping, horseback riding and even an outdoor amphitheater.
RGME holds the prime engineering contract with TxDOT, leading four different engineering firms working on different aspects of the project, said Michael Martin, assistant manager for the Transportation Department, who is heading up the RGME team. “The initial schematic work was done by another firm, but we got to augment and improve it,” he said, which meant working to limit the visibility of the 3.7 miles of roadway to keep the focus on the natural beauty of the land, reducing the number of retaining walls and concrete, and improving the aesthetics of retaining walls left in place with a natural stone façade. The team also made other improvements, including drainage.
“Our focus was on preserving the natural beauty of the area,” said Martin. In addition, the changes resulted in a savings of $1.8 million.
The development is being done in two phases, due to environmental issues. “There are two endangered species of birds – the Golden-Cheeked Warbler and the Black-Capped Verio – who annually return to nest in the area, starting in March, and we needed to clear the roadway corridors by February 28th of this year, so the birds would nest elsewhere in the park and not be impacted by the construction,” Martin said. The second phase will be to complete the roadways and put in final retaining walls, drainage structures, signage, etc. That phase is projected to be completed by March of next year.
The park is scheduled to open in May of 2023.