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Waco's recreation capital

Nov. 19, 1997

Waco's recreation

capital

By Luke McElmurry

Reporter for The Baylor Lariat

Hiding beyond the banks of the Brazos River is an Eden for student outdoor recreation lovers. For many, William Cameron Park is the capital of recreation in Waco because of the variety of activities the park offers.

Cameron Park seems somewhat of a geological fluke, because it interrupts the plains of Waco with its jagged shale cliffs, languid streams that wind through bamboo fields, lush undergrowth and undulating rocky hills. The natural beauty that radiates from Cameron Park and the diversity in its terrain are the sources for the park's activities.

The hills in the area offer challenging runs for the mountain biker who, according to Larry Simms, park ranger for twelve years, is the main attendee at Cameron Park. In fact the park is lined with trails that have been rated highly in several national mountain bike publications. The trails run the gamut from very technical downhills to twisting singletracks to hands-free cruising paths. Last weekend, an intercollegiate race was held at the park with classes ranging from beginner to expert.

Sascha Schnur, a Stroudsburg, Penn., sophomore, is a beginner cyclist who has, through the bumps and bruises, found a hobby in mountain biking at Cameron Park.

'I try to ride as much as I can out there because it is so pretty,' Schnur said. 'I used to crash every time I rode because I was on trails that were too difficult for me. But because there are so many trails, I was able to find easier ones and now I can enjoy myself without the scrapes.'

The hills ultimately form into cliffs which jut up to the Brazos River and provide the rock climbing aficionado with an opportunity to escape the monotony of Waco's flatlands. Although the climbing is illegal, a human speck can be spotted rappelling down the faces of the park's white cliffs.

Attracted by the pleasant scenery and oak tree shade, the Frisbee golfer and jogger are two of the other most dominant recreationists at Cameron Park.

Picnicking is also common amongst Baylor couples.

Brett English, a Newport Beach, Calif., junior, is a visitor in Cameron Park at meal time.

'When I have a picnic at the park sitting under a tree and overlooking the Brazos it just gives me such an inner peace and a much deeper sense of commitment to my girlfriend,' said English.

According to Simms, the park is geared toward attracting the recreationist. There are new 'launch pads,' along with directional arrows at the tees of every one of the Frisbee golf course's 18 baskets.

Currently under construction is a walkway that will cover the length of the park along the Brazos River. Bridges on the trails are in place to ease the transition over creeks and crevasses.

'We are always trying to improve the park to make it more enjoyable for everybody,' said Simms.

The park is accentuated by fields and meadows that provide areas for football, softball and soccer. Last spring Sigma Chi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon played the first of what they hope to be a series of traditional softball games at Lovers Leap.

Often times characters clothed in medieval garb can be seen acting out historical scenes on a makeshift Cameron Park battle field.

Because the park is so such an attraction to those who want to be in the outdoors Simms said that it will continue to become more recreation oriented.

The Cameron Park Zoo also offers visitors recreational opportunities. The zoo, which opened in July 1993, has expanded and currenltly has plans to expand even more.

'We're always making plans to enlarge the facilities,' park tour guide Bill Hyden said. 'In the future, we plan to add an ariel bird exhibit and and an educational area for children.'

The zoo currently houses two eating establishments, a gift store, two reptile houses and other animal exhibits.

'We have a farm environment that's popular with visitors,' Hyden said.

This area serves as the petting zoo part of the facilities with four variaties of cattle, goats and three types of sheep.

This is part two of a four-part series on William Cameron Park

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