$97,500 grant for improvements at Lake Rita Blanca
By Robin Scott
Dalhart City Manager Greg Duggan announced Wednesday, September 2nd that the city has received a $97,500 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission for improvements to lengthen the trails at Lake Rita Blanca. The money is approximately 80 percent of the anticipated cost for the project with the remainder being supplied by the city and counties with in-kind labor and equipment.
The project effectively extends the walking and biking trails at Lake Rita Blanca from five miles to 8.5 miles. Hilmar Cheese, located in Dalhart, provided the funds for trail materials to lengthen the trail from 3.5 to 5 miles last year. The grant will be used for surface materials for the new 3.5 miles and new surface on the existing trails.
Lake Rita Blanca is located on FM281 in Dalhart. At one time Lake Rita Blanca was a State Park but is now owned and operated by the City of Dalhart. The park includes the 150-acre lake set on 1,668 acres used for biking, hiking, walking, horse riding, and other outdoor activities. It has also been the site for educational programs and most recently a class sponsored by Community Connect, community education, for youngsters aptly called “A Walk on the Wild Side.”
Over the years, many improvements to the park have been accomplished. A large pavilion is available for community activities and private use and is a great spot for enjoying wildlife. In the evenings, the parking lot at the pavilion is an excellent place to view the amazing sunsets of the Texas Panhandle.
The park also has two playgrounds and a fishing pond. The playgrounds not only have fun play equipment but two rock-climbing walls for the adventurer. Campers may stay in the park overnight for a nominal fee. Many area residents regularly walk down into the canyon surrounding the lake for a nature walk. In the winter months, geese make Lake Rita Blanca their home, and their squawking while in flight is a signal that fall is near its end and winter in full swing. The sound of the geese is as familiar and comforting to residents as the sound of the trains passing through town.
On Wednesday, Duggan stated, “We have just been awarded the grant and will begin making the improvements to the trail this fall. The area is well used by everyone, so we are excited about the improvements.” Duggan also noted that the funds for the parks’ annual upkeep come from the City of Dalhart, The Dalhart Economic Development Fund and from both Dallam and Hartley Counties. Each group provides $30,000, which provides the city with $120,000 annually for maintenance, upkeep and improvements.
For more information about Lake Rita Blanca, contact the Dalhart city offices at 244.5511.