Bonham State Park hosts hiking tour of historic recreational sites
By Allen Rich
Jan 7, 2014
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Bonham -- It was December 1933.  Audiences across the U.S. were lining up to see the Marx Brothers' new movie, Duck Soup.  The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, repealing Prohibition. In Fannin County, a public work relief program known as Civilian Conservation Corps -- part of FDR's New Deal -- was starting construction on a natural resources project that would become Bonham State Park.

The 3rd Annual Stuffed Turkey Hike at Bonham State Park was a step back in time as visitors were treated to an informative tour that was equal parts history and exercise.

Just over 80 years ago, CCC workers from North Texas and southern Oklahoma were using teams of draft animals to move dirt to an area that would eventually be the dam for a 65-acre lake.

But it was another project that piqued the interest of hikers at Bonham State Park on New Year's Day. Wagon teams were bringing sandstone blocks from a quarry near Gober, Texas and depositing the blocks along a wooded trail where stonemasons were soon at work chiseling out picnic tables and fire pits. However, even sandstone isn't impervious to the hands of time and several of the picnic sites fell into a state of disrepair as decades passed, seemingly lost forever.

That all changed when a generous benefactor provided a grant and specified that funds were to be used renovating the historic picnic areas.

With the help of volunteers Mike and Linda Vaught, Cheryl Youree, and John Vaught, as well as the Bonham State Park staff, five historic sites have been cleared of brush and debris. Texas Parks & Wildlife stonemason Wesley King is in the final stages of repairing the sandstone structures and hikers on New Year's Day enjoyed an informative lecture by park ranger Scotty Hazlewood as the group studied the handiwork of the CCC crew.

It turns out that Mr. King is a third-generation stonemason and knowledgeable to the point that he has most likely identified the site where the CCC master stonemason assembled a prototype picnic area for the edification of apprentice stonemasons, who then went to work on various sandstone structures in the park.

Most of the sandstone recreational areas were completed December 1934.  Today, they can be seen along a hiking/biking trail that weaves through the rolling hills of Bonham State Park.  There are no plans to make the relatively remote picnic tables and fire pits a day use area, but the staff is hoping to find someone knowledgeable in astronomy to lead "Star Gazer" discussions at one of the hilltop sandstone structures.

In all, a total of 48 hikers participated in the 3rd Annual Stuffed Turkey Hike at Bonham State Park; 37 hikers joined Hazlewood and 11 hikers came later for a self-guided tour.