Just so you understand the situation, Arlington is a city of 365,000 people and is located between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. The park is bounded by highway 157 (one of the major north/south highways) on the east and Green Oaks Boulevard (a major east/west highway) on the south. The park is 1300 acres and has a mixture of green areas, thick prairie forests, park areas and trails. Approximately eight miles of paved trails run through the park.
Two weeks ago a couple of dads and their under-five year old sons went for an outing to River Legacy Park. It was an outstanding day in Texas (we have a lot of them in October and November). Im sure the dads thought this would be a great experience and a great time to share with the kids. They got to the park in the morning of October 10 and about 1PM decided to go off the trails and do some exploring on their own- bushwhacking as we used to call it at Philmont. About 3:45AM on October 11 they were rescued from a small island in the middle of the Trinity River by the local fire department and 20 volunteers.
These explorers had no compass, no cell phone, a couple of candy bars and some water. They were dressed in shorts and T-shirts and were wearing sneakers (is that a Texas word?). The got completely lost in the brush and trees and had no idea how to get to safety.
When I first heard this story, I was really upset with these dads who had put their kids at risk with so little preparation or planning. Things ended OK, but so many things could have gone wrong:
A twisted ankle while walking off the trails
Bee stings or bites from wildlife in the park (snakes, etc.)
Exposure- if this had happened two weeks later, the night time temperatures would have been in the low 40s
Drowning- they left the main park ground to stay on a small island in the middle of the Trinity. A lot of Texas rivers are only streams until it rains. Flash floods kill people every year. Camping on a small island in the middle of the river is asking for trouble.
The list of potential problems could go on and on. Hopefully we can all learn from this experience. Before you go on even the most basic outing:
Understand the local terrain and setting. Even if you dont have a map, know where roads and landmarks are located and how to get home safely from there.
Take a GPS or cell phone for communication
Take along a personal first aid kit and know how to use it
Know the types of wildlife that might present a danger to your party
A little pre-planning can make even the most basic outing a lot safer and a lot more fun.