Texas Official Fighting to Save State Parks
Texas State Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-District 31), an author of two bills designed to help fund state parks, announced that the measure received good response from the House Committee for Ways and Means.
According to a report by the Alice Echo News-Journal, the bill and joint resolution are now pending scheduling for a House floor vote. “I am working to make sure that sales taxes collected on the sale of sporting goods are spent on Texas State Parks,” Guillen stated. “Unless we protect Texas’ natural areas, we will lose this unique part of our heritage that makes Texas a special place to live,” he said.
As chairman of the Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism, Guillen held hearings on parks funding over the past year and says the bill will allocate proceeds from sales taxes already levied on the sale, storage or use of sporting goods to provide for acquisition, maintenance and development of the Texas State Park system.
“The 82nd Legislature passed a budget with a 95 percent cut for the Texas Recreation and Park Account,” Guillen said. “This was a reduction of $23.3 million in state park funding over the biennium. It was a crippling blow to state park operations, repairs and future acquisitions.
“State and national parks are some of the most iconic American institutions. Losing these valuable resources is like ripping the pages from the tangible history of Texas. We must take the necessary steps to preserve the past in order to ensure the future. Our children deserve to inherit and enjoy the legacy that generations of Texans carved out for them.
Guillen said that with an estimated 12 million more residents expected in Texas over the next 20 years. Without funding for maintenance, staff, and growth, Texas parks will face more and more damage from overuse, and will become places where ordinary Texans cannot take their children or grandchildren due to overcrowding.
“Maintenance and development of current state parks must be addressed, and in order to meet future projected use, the state park system needs to add an additional 1.4 million acres of land by 2030,” Guillen noted. “There is now only about 25 acres of state park land per 1,000 Texas residents; there is a serious need to increase the amount of park land that the state owns in order to accommodate Texas’ growing population,” he said.