Texas Game Warden Training Center Groundbreaking Set for April 9, 2009

Texas Game Warden Training Center Groundbreaking Set for April 9, 2009
Major Donations to be Announced, Cadets Actively Training.

HAMILTON, Texas — -(AmmoLand.com)-  Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials and partners from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the Police Activities League and the Texas Game Warden Association will break ground April 9 on the first phase of a planned $20 million training complex in Hamilton County.

Major donors will be recognized at the April 9 groundbreaking, and cadets from the 54th Texas Game Warden Academy class will be participating in scheduled field training exercises at the site.

For more than 30 years, game warden cadets trained in a converted warehouse on 6.2 acres in downtown Austin, along with a patchwork of borrowed facilities around the state.

That changed when the 54th Texas Game Warden Academy cadet class began training in fall 2008 at existing facilities on a 220-acre property in Hamilton County. Envisioned from the beginning as a public-private partnership, the property was donated by the nonprofit Police Activities League.

The Texas Legislature authorized an initial infusion of $3.6 million from the sale of the Austin property to begin construction on 39,000 square feet of instructional, administrative and residential facilities. Along with the state’s initial investment, private donors have so far given about $6.4 million, altogether providing about half the estimated $20 million that will be required to complete construction of facilities that will be home to 48 cadets and 16 instructors at a time. With the first phase of the project underway, project partners are launching a broader public fundraising campaign and encourage Texans to support Texas Game Wardens with a donation.

The Game Warden Training Center eventually will include a water rescue training facility, a firing range, an emergency vehicle operations course and more (see complete plans online) — specialized training facilities that add dozens of hours in travel time and thousands of dollars to the training schedule now. The goal is a world-class training environment for a world-class law enforcement agency.

“Every day, every night, for more than a century, Texas game wardens have epitomized community-based conservation law enforcement across our state,” said Peter Holt, chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “They put their lives on the line, take educational messages to schools, save lives during hurricanes and floods, and do it all with a positive, can-do outlook. Sometimes they pay the ultimate price. Now, with this training center, game wardens could use some help. We hope the people of Texas will respond with donations to help us meet our fundraising goal.”

Since 1895, Texas game wardens have built a reputation as “off-the-pavement” peace officers with a heritage second only to the legendary Texas Rangers. Sixteen have died in the line of duty.

That proud tradition of service is carried on today by more than 500 men and women who reflect the diversity of the people of Texas. They come from small towns and some of the nation’s largest urban areas. Many have degrees in criminal justice or wildlife management or biology. Others studied the humanities, and worked as bankers and graphic designers, city cops and schoolteachers, before gaining entrance to the Game Warden Academy.

Something they all have in common is their dedication and desire to serve the people of Texas, and to help conserve the state’s natural and cultural resources.

Only about 10 percent of applicants to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement training program make the cut each year. Those who are accepted undergo the most rigorous training of any peace officer in Texas, and are widely acclaimed as the best-trained and best-educated conservation law enforcement officers in the nation. It’s a program with an international reputation.

In the most recent cadet class, two trainees hailed from the nascent conservation agency of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. Conservation organizations hope to send officers from as far away as Africa to attend future courses.

Applications are being accepted through April 30 for the 55th Texas Game Warden Academy class.

Major donors to the Texas Game Warden Training Center include William P. Clements, Lee M. Bass, TXU, T.D. Friedkin, T.L.L. Temple Foundation, Edwin L. Cox, Walter Umphrey and the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation.

For more information about how to make a tax-deductible donation to support construction of the training center, please visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Web site.