A popular site, Love's Lookout scenic vista – north of Jacksonville – has thrilled numerous visitors for more than a century.
And the City of Jacksonville hopes to add to its cadre of volunteers to ensure that folks continue to be greeted and made to feel welcome during their visit.
“It's important to have volunteers because they serve as ambassadors for Jacksonville, by greeting our visitors and helping them enjoy their stay,” said Andrew Lugo, communications and tourism director for the City of Jacksonville. “Additionally, the volunteers help Explore Jacksonville (the city's tourism branch) by collecting contact information so that we can help them return here.”
Located at 43822 U.S. Highway 69 North, the site is situated on a bluff, overlooking the East Texas countryside. It was named in 1910 for Jacksonville resident Wesley Love, who purchased and planted a 600-acre peach farm in the area and whose widow later donated 22 acres for a state park.
When plans failed to materialize, the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park, according to a 2004 column by East Texas historian Bob Bowman.
Then, in the 1930's, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration helped enhance the area, using red rock mined from Cherokee County to build a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater used for sunrise services at Easter at the site that rises some 240 feet above the surrounding terrain, the column noted.
The complex was redesigned, and in 2004, a new 5,500-square-foot complex with a visitors' information center resembling a tomato shed, along with a vending area, restrooms, covered picnic areas and a sheriff's substation was dedicated.
Since that time, volunteers have greeted visitors with East Texas hospitality, first working through the local Chamber of Commerce, and now – since October 2019 – with Explore Jacksonville.
“We have about 20 Explore Jacksonville volunteers” who help staff the center, but more are needed, Lugo said.
“We're hoping to get additional volunteers,” he said. “It's not been a challenge to manage our volunteers; however, it is tough to recruit new ones.”
Retired residents Patsy and Kenny McLeod, who have volunteered at Love's Lookout for approximately 15 years, find it a great way to promote jacksonville and Cherokee County.
“It's a chance to get out and do something for Jacksonville, and for the whole county, too,” she said. “When people come out there, they're visiting everything they can in Jacksonville and other places.”
Volunteering at Love's Lookout “is a great way to spend your time,” she added.
“You get to meet people from all over, even from other countries. And you'll meet people from town, who continue to come out – there are some who have discovered Love's Lookout and have come back (repeatedly). They like the atmosphere out there, it's just so pretty and so clean.”
Lugo said that volunteers serve one four-hour shift per week, with a team of two working each shift.
“The only qualifications to volunteering are having reliable transportation and a love of Jacksonville,” he said, adding that volunteers are outfitted with an Explore Jacksonville jacket and polo. “Other benefits include developing relationships with other volunteers, and complimentary group lunches.”
“We're sort of like a family out there, and it's really nice because we work together as a team,” she said. “To me, that's what Jacksonville stands for.”
To learn more about becoming a Love's Lookout volunteer, contact Andrew Lugo at 903-339-3320.
To learn more about Love's Lookout, visit the Facebook page “Explore Jacksonville Texas.”