Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Superintendent James Adams knows that he has a dream job. Not only is he watching over the development of Texas’ newest state park in North Texas near Strawn, he’s also raising his family close to home.
“I grew up in Mineral Wells, which is just 35 miles from here,” said James. “We’re close to family and friends, and we’ll be raising our kids in a Texas state park.”
James’ wife Maygan is an expert on that topic. Her dad, Steve Jones, was superintendent of Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway, and she spent her entire childhood with a state park as her playground.
“Our house was right on the lake, so I thought that that was just normal, that everybody had their own lake in their front yard and that you could just go swimming or hiking whenever you wanted to,” said Maygan. “Our house was the place all the kids came to when we had church events or sleepovers. It was pretty idyllic.”
James and Maygan met in high school and worked together at a local hardware store.
“We didn’t like each other much then, because he was my manager,” recalled Maygan. “Needless to say, I wanted nothing to do with him!”
A few years later they connected again, this time at Tarleton State University, where James was studying criminal justice and Maygan was a sociology major. A friendship developed into something more, and the couple became engaged after a few years of dating. After graduating from Tarleton State, James worked at the Erath County Jail where he made an immediate discovery about his career choice that he shared with Maygan.
“James was like ‘I just got a degree in criminal justice and I hate it. I hate criminals. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t want to be a police officer or work in corrections. This just isn’t for me,’” she recalled.
James visited with his soon-to-be father-in-law, who encouraged him to explore a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). He started as a maintenance specialist at Cedar Hill State Park and quickly moved up the ranks. He worked at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area as a park ranger, and then moved into management as the assistant superintendent at Lake Arrowhead State Park. He then became site manager at the South Sulphur Unit of Cooper Lake State Park. Along the way he earned a master’s degree in public administration, which is serving him well in his TPWD career. When he found out about the superintendent opening at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, he jumped at the chance.
“Having a hand in developing a new state park is not something that comes around very often,” said James. “It’s really exciting to watch the plans unfold for this new park. My wife and I love this part of Texas. It’s a dream come true to not only get back close to home, but also to grow a legacy in a new Texas state park.”
Maygan and James with their children
James and Maygan have two children, a five-year-old son, and a baby daughter who was born earlier this year. Maygan works as a special education teacher in Mineral Wells, a short commute from their house that is within the boundaries of the state park.
“This really is the perfect place to raise kids and to be able to show them the value of the outdoors and the value of the cultural and natural history in this part of Texas,” said James. “It’s really a privilege in my book to be able to expose them to that.”
Maygan agrees with that assessment and offers her own tongue-in-cheek assessment of their living situation.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance that I’m the biggest mooch in the state of Texas, because I have lived in park housing my entire life, except for a short time in college,” she said. “In all seriousness, though, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for the world, and I feel blessed that we will be raising our kids in a Texas state park.”
Maygan’s dad with James and their children
But Maygan knows first-hand that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
“Growing up, I knew that dad would get calls in the middle of the night, miss holidays, and be busy most weekends,” she said. “When a tornado warning was issued, dad would leave us to warn his campers, and mom and I would be hunkered down in the tub hoping he was ok. The job is a dream and offers you and your family incredible opportunities that few get to experience, but it also involves sacrifice. As a public servant you work for the public when they need you, not when it is convenient. Growing up like this made me more independent and my mother taught me how to be strong when facing a storm, literally and figuratively. My mom managed the role of a superintendent’s wife with heroic grace and I hope that I can do the same.”
Palo Pinto Mountains State Park
As Maygan and James celebrate the holidays with their young family, they look forward to the development of the newest park in Texas, which will soon be underway. Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is raising $9 million in private funds to amplify the public funding provided by the Texas Legislature to make the park a reality.
“I’m looking forward to getting to witness this place being born,” said James. “The planning is done and right now we have a premier Texas state park on paper. I’m looking forward to seeing dirt moved and bricks laid and having this decade of work that all of these people have put into this place come to fruition.”
You can help bring Palo Pinto Mountains State Park to life…