“Plenty of land for new parks but not money” is the headline of a story by Cindy Horwell in today’s San Antonio Express-News.
Two years ago, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation donated 3,700 acres of undeveloped Texas Hill Country land 30 minutes northwest of Boerne for use as a state park.
Great news, except it is closed to the public. And the state has no plans on board to open it because state park funds are stretched thinly already.
Dear Texas State Legislature: Hopefully, the State of Texas will not let this gift slip away from its residents, as happened with a smaller donation of parkland almost 90 years ago with a Kronkosky connection.
In 2010, I stumbled across, what to me, was the mysterious disappearance of a public park:
Whatever happened to your park, Hallie Maude Neff?
The newspapers of the day used such glowing terms to describe the new state park off the Boerne-Blanco Road (474) on the banks of the Guadalupe River.
Curiosity about the business partnerships existing between Albert Kronkosky (1868-1944), Charles Graebner (Albert Kronkosky’s brother-in-law) and my husband’s step-great-grandfather, John Nooe (1871-1944), a doctor in Boerne, led me to the first clues of the existence of the park:
A beautiful park site at Boerne, eight miles from the Guadalupe river, donated to the State by Charles Graebner, Albert Kronkosky and Dr. J. F. Nooe, has been christened Hallie Maude Neff State park, In honor of the governor’s daughter.
The Brookshire Times, July 25, 1924
Following, is a list of parks given the State on the recent trip… Boerne, 50 acres, Charles Graebner, Dr. J. F. Nooe, Albert Kronkosky, on Guadalupe River, fine shade-and water. (Hallie Maude Neff State Park.)
San Antonio Express, August 19, 1924
The Hallie Maude Neff State Park at Boerne. which was donated by Messrs Albert Kronkosky, Dr. J. F. Nooe and Col. Chas. Graebner, will be one of the most attractive spots in Texas for the coming season, because it has the Guadalupe River for the north line and the Sabinas River running through it with a concrete dam across it, making a fine swimming pool or lake. We should say, that will accommodate 7,000 people. This Park will attract thousands of people from San Antonio during the summer season. The Chamber of Commerce at Boerne has raised funds by public subscription to build a better road to the Park and it is about completed now, it isn’t only a better road but a good one. Thanks to Mr. Holekamp for his business methods in spending money.
Big Spring Herald, January 16, 1925
Had I stumbled across these clues in the mystery of the missing state park a number of years ago, perhaps Bessie Mae Kronkosky might have been able to shed light. But she passed away on the first of this month at the age of 103.
Sarah Reveley shared a much larger clue with me, a full-page story praising the park as a “new fairyland” in the March 22, 1925, edition of the San Antonio Express:
For not only has one of the most alluring and naturally beautiful scenic spots of all Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, been given in fee simple to the State Park Board acting in behalf of the State of Texas, but now the same interest that gave the 70-acre tract eight and a half miles out the Blanco highway from Boerne are spending $15,000 from their private funds in order that the park will be ready to receive visitors early this summer. Other citizens of Boerne recently subscribed $1,100 to provide funds for putting the highway from Boerne to the park in the best possible shape to accommodate the tremendously heavy traffic anticipated.
The article describes a lodge capable of accommodating 100 people next to the caretakers’ cottage and facilities for campers. Among the distinctive features were a “babbling brook,” a “bell-ringing rock” and “the Flapper’s Roost, which is reached by a winding stair on a tree that leads from a cliff down to the water’s edge.” Recreational opportunities included the swimming area in the Guadalupe, canoeing and a concrete dam being built over the Sabinas River for fishing. The natural cave on Bear Creek in the park contained:
…the Venus hair fern, a species of Maidenhair fern scientifically known as Adiantum Cappillis-Veneris. This is the only place in Texas that this specimen of fern is known to thrive.
Does this rare fern still thrive today?
I dragged one of my sisters out to look for the park that promised to attract San Antonians by the thousands. The spot at the creek at what would have been the closest edge of Hallie Maude State Park to 474 is indeed still beautiful. Although there is river access, no evidence of a state park exists.
But how did Hallie’s namesake park disappear from the Texas state map? Please send more clues….
Note Added on September 13, 2010: And how could it disappear so quickly? It does not appear to be included on a 1936 map of state parks published by the Texas Planning Board.
Note Added on September 15, 2010: As this story wandered around the internet, it fell into the hands of Bill Ward, a retired geologist and member of the Native Plant Society. Not sure why, but, according to his research, the “fairyland” was returned to its donors before 1933:
Most of the improvements at Hallie Neff State Park at Boerne came during 1926 through convict labor. Footnote: The seventy acre Hallie Neff Park was donated to the state in 1925. It reverted back to the donors before 1933. Charles S. Potts, The Convict Labor System of Texas. (Publications of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, No. 383, 1903), p. 429, U.T. Vertical File, Box 332, SHRLRC; “Eight Convicts and Truck to Help Neff Build State Parks,” Austin American. 1924, Box 3L426, CAH; Lawson, “The Texas State Parks System,” pp. 1-3; Jackson, “State Parks for Texas,” p. 71; Texas Legislative Council, Texas State Parks, p. 2. page 41 of dissertation on Texas state parks
Note added on October 27, 2010: Another update from Bill Ward -
Sabinas River refers to the little Sabinas Creek that enters the Guadalupe River just west of the 474 bridge. That species of maidenhair fern is the most common fern in the Hill Country. Even in 1925, no one should have said it only was known from that site.