El Camino Real Historic Trail Signs Unveiled
BY JAY ERMIS | TELEGRAM STAFF
Temple Daily Telegram - Oct 10, 2012
THORNDALE — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison unveiled the first National Park Service
signs on the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail on Monday at Apache
Pass on FM 908 in Milam County. The ceremony was attended by more than 600 people,
including students from five Milam
County schools. Milam was the first Texas county to receive National Park Service
signage, marking part of the historic 2,500-mile trail from Mexico to Louisiana.
In addition, Hutchison and former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, co-sponsors of the bill
creating the trail, were recognized for their efforts with the El Camino Real de los
Tejas National Historic Trail.
The unveiling of the signs came following a year’s planning by El Camino Real de los
Tejas National Trail Association president Lucille Estell, vice president Joy Graham
and executive director Steven Gonzales.
“The 62 signs throughout Milam County will highlight the trail’s high potential sites,”
Following a brief keynote address, Hutchison and County Judge Dave Barkemeyer unveiled
the two signs.
The signs read “Apache Pass, San Gabriel River Crossing” and “El Camino Real de los
Tejas National Historic Trail.”
“We’ve had a lot of help from people outside the county,” Barkemeyer said. “It was
quite an honor for our senator to get this trail designated and for her being here
The thing that is special about Milam County along the trail is that there is a number
of significant historical sites, Barkemeyer said, including missions in the San Gabriel
area; the Apache Pass crossing; Sugarloaf Mountain, which the Tonkawa Indians claim to
be their Garden of Eden; and now the designated trail.
“Someone said tongue-in-cheek it took 200 years for us to put signs on the trail,”
Barkemeyer said. “For 200 years, the travelers found their way along the trail without
Hutchison said, “It’s wonderful. I am really proud of Milam County for supporting this
in every way and getting everything together so they could get the signs up. I think it
will be a real boost for other counties to get involved.”
Texas heritage is special, Hutchison added, noting we pass it to future generations by
preserving the history. Along with possible tourism the site will bring in, she said,
“it’s also making sure our children know how special Texas is.”
Hutchison said of the trail effort, “We wouldn’t have gotten this designation without
the volunteers who cared so much, who came to me and said we need to be on the national
historical trails map. Every community that is on the trail has their association and
it is that excitement that is creating this kind of opportunity.”
Estell said, “We want this trail dedicated to the young people. That is who it belongs
to. … Our nation will only survive as our heritage is preserved.”
“I think we couldn’t have a better dedication ceremony,” Graham said. “We had the
person who made it possible in the national government and we had wonderful people who
helped us pull it altogether for the last seven years. … I know there are 600 to 700
kids who will put this in their history book and remember this.”
Aaron Mahr, superintendent of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail,
said, “We’ve seen development of national historic trails that once you have a seed
project like this other places say they this is something they want in their community.
That is something we can work toward.”
Mahr said the efforts of Estell and Graham working with the national park service and
Milam County “making sure this will be the first area designated for signs” made it all
“The National Park Service will work with any area where there is a strong local
constituency that want to work in collaboration with the park service,” Mahr said.
“There are several counties that have stepped up and said they also want to be a part
of this, mostly because of the efforts of Milam County. Anywhere along the trail is
eligible for signing or development, but it depends on the local initiative and that
really came forward in Milam County.”