CHEROKEE COUNTY —
When the weather's fine, thoughts turn to soaking up rays and being outdoors, and East Texas is the place to do it.
Looking for someplace really free to kick back? Check out Bullard Kids' Park and Love's Lookout, all within a 15-minute drive from town:
Bullard Kids' Park
Built by volunteers and dedicated two months ago, the local playscape – located just north of downtown Bullard – is a fantasy play land dreamed up by local school children who suggested attractions like a tree fort, rocket ship, slides, a castle, monkey bars and a rock wall.
The playground is separated into areas for older and younger children, with picnic pavilions and restrooms close by. The park is free of cost to visitors.
Located two miles north of the city on U.S. 69, Love's Lookout was named for Jacksonville resident Wesley Love, who purchased and planted a 600-acre peach farm in that area. His widow later donated 22 acres for a state park, and today, the popular site features a visitor's information center designed to resemble a tomato packing shed – a nod to the city's tomato heritage – a vending area, restrooms, covered picnic sites and a sheriff's substation. On a clear day, one can see 35 miles into the distance, according to a state historical marker at the site.
Other outdoor venues that serve as learning experiences are local farms like Way Back When Dairy and Poppa Skinny's Farm:
Way Back When Dairy
The operation is Cherokee County’s only certified raw milk producer, owned and operated by Mark and DeOnna Ganske on a family farm that has operated as a dairy since 1948. Located on FM 177 East in Mixon, visitor can tour the dairy by appointment, 903-372-9460.
Poppa Skinny’s Farm
This Cherokee County natural and sustainable family farm – at 952 FM 1910 West, outside Dialville – was established in 1913, though the farm has been in the family since the mid-1800s, according to the website www.poppaskinnysfarm.com. Poppa – John Acker – “was a very progressive farmer for his day,” attending special workshops offered by Texas A&M University. Today his grandchildren and their families run the dairy, which raises seasonal produce, fruit, eggs, chicken, port, beef and goat dairy products, managing the farm “without synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms,” according to the website. Tours are offered Saturdays at 1 p.m.; contact Ron Luce at 903-363-2843 to learn more.