MINERAL WELLS — The woman in charge of attracting visitors to Mineral Wells has added a certification to her skill set that aligns with the city’s past as a health destination and its recent revival of that moniker.
“We’re just going right back to our roots,” said Rose Jordan, who recently launched her fourth year as director of tourism for the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce. “In the 20s, we were known as America’s health and wellness destination.”
With that history in mind, Jordan last month earned a Wellness Travel Specialist designation from The Travel Institute.
“The word is out about Mineral Wells,” said David May, Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and President. “And part of that can be attributed to Rose’s work and passion for tourism.”
It starts with downtown.
Jordan said that two or three years ago, just about the only traffic in the city’s historic heart was people on their way to somewhere else.
“Now, the streets are lined with cars,” Jordan said. “People are walking.”
That’s because investors and entrepreneurs took action and put their own skin in the game, she said.
Retail shops started popping up.
The shuttered Crazy Water Hotel was revived, its three-story pavilion ringed by mom-n-pop retailers.
Resources also poured into the Baker Hotel, which is on track to reopen its spa and other amenities in 2024.
The 14-story Baker, once a status visit for Golden Era Hollywood celebs, had become a towering symbol of the city’s doldrums. It also was a default bottleneck on the city’s economic development to-do list.
“People decided to stop waiting for the Baker and do something for our town,” she said. “Now, we have a downtown to support, we have something to offer, when people come stay at the Baker. … The heart of your city is your downtown. Our heart started beating again.”
Jordan said local creators, under an “unofficial committee” led by local real estate leader Cody Jordan and including artist and businesswoman Perri Leavelle, began splashing downtown with more than 25 murals along the north-south Oak Avenue artery and beyond.
“The goal is to get people out of their cars, to go down and and get out of your cars,” Jordan said.
And as downtown has reawakened, other Mineral Wells and Palo Pinto County draws have either maintained activity or welcomed new attention.
“We did just have a bunch of new hiking and biking trails put in,” Jordan said, mentioning the 20-mile rails-to-trails path linking Mineral Wells with Weatherford. “We do have some more stuff coming that will be outdoors stuff down on the (Brazos) River.”
Those include a kayak and canoe put-in facility on the river named for “The Arms of God.”
South of Mineral Wells State Park, Clark Gardens Botanical Park offers thought-inducing labyrinths for spiritual sightseers. Nearby, the National Vietnam War Museum has its own labyrinths and recently hosted its Christmas tree lighting for 50 or 60 visitors on a dark Saturday night.
The state park itself, named “one of the best in Texas” in a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department survey of 1,732 visitors, also boasts one of the only natural rock-climbing walls in the state in its Penitentiary Hollow.
West of town, Mineral Wells Fossil Park lets dinosaur fans comb the ground, free of charge, for treasures. Those include a recently unearthed prehistoric shark’s tooth that speaks to the era when much of Texas and Central North America were covered by inland ocean.
“We get calls from all over the state of Texas, so that’s another strong asset,” Jordan said of Fossil Park. “We are a prime outdoor destination.”
Others have noticed.
The Texas Department of Transportation reached out for brochures that are now scattered in travel centers statewide. T&A Adventure Outfitters last year announced it was bringing waterside yoga and other outdoor health activities to Lake Mineral Wells State Park.
The park joins Possum Kingdom State Park on the outdoor fun menu. And Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, just west of Strawn, is in development to add even more muscle to Jordan’s overtures to outdoor lovers.
Economic development and tourism delegations from other cities ask to come see what’s being done in Mineral Wells.
Jordan and city supporters also are pursuing more farm-to-table menus for locavores, diners who prefer their meals be as locally sourced as possible.
“We are looking to fill that gap,” she said. “We’re still learning. We still go look a other towns and say, ‘This is a cool feature,’ and, ‘How did you do that?’. … We’re in the process of making the shift now, so in the next two years we can position ourself and market ourself as a wellness destination.”