Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Texas Parks - Taking Action

In my previous post on the funding crisis in Texas parks, one of our readers suggested it's time to take action, and suggested a couple of ways to do so. Art Chapman seems to concur:

Texas state parks are in abysmal condition, and the state Legislature is the only source of relief in sight.

The problem is, the Legislature doesn't act unless there is an enormous political prize at stake or a catastrophic crisis is at its doorstep......

There has never been a true hue and cry on the part of the public. Not when it comes to parks. Let a new hunting restriction surface, or limit the number of red fish that can be caught by sports fishermen, and watch the people turn out for public meetings. Hunters and fishers keep up with legislation; they make their voices heard. They demand change.

There are several advocacy groups for the Texas parks system, including many local "friends" groups. One very informative site that is covers all parks is Texans for State Parks.

The funding crisis for the Texas park system is not new. A problem this serious takes years to develop. Last year, a bill was introduced which would have raised the cap on money generated from the sporting goods tax.

Because Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, has introduced House Bill 1292, which proposes to save our parks by more than doubling the allocation of sporting goods tax revenue dedicated to state and local parks. This bill would raise the decade-old cap to $85 million from $32 million. Instead of $16 million annually, state parks would receive $58.5 million, with local parks getting the balance to offset the amount taken away from them during the previous budget cycle.

This bill sits in the House Ways and Means Committee, with no hearing date set. There are other legislative opportunities to boost state park funding, but this is the most generous. And its chances for survival are not that good. Passage could depend on our input.

Despite those efforts, the bill never made it out of committee.

We have an election coming up. Among the long list of issues for which our state representatives need to be held accountable, funding for Texas parks should be at the top. Make sure they know it.

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