The fate of the Texas state park system will be on the ballot in November. Voters will decide whether to strengthen the rules that currently reserve sales taxes paid on sporting goods to fund parks, or, if they vote “no,” to continue allowing the money to be siphoned off for other uses.
Taxes on sporting goods have been dedicated to park funding since 1993, but legislators have continually found other uses for the money – up to 40% has ended up in the state’s general fund over those 25 years. Lack of funding, and greater demand for park access by a growing population has left many facilities in disrepair.
Texas Monthly writer-at-large Wes Ferguson says areas of his favorite park, McKinney Falls State Park, near Austin, has been under construction since 2015, because of damage done by flooding. Ferguson is also the author of the book ‘The Blanco River.’ He says he wants voters to approve the ballot measure, to give state parks a reliable funding stream.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife is facing about $800 million in repairs that are needed, that they just haven’t been able to do,” Ferguson says.
Ferguson says Texas has had opportunities to expand its park system with donated land, but hasn’t been able to afford to maintain those parcels as parks.
“People who are big land owners have approached Texas Parks and Wildlife and said ‘hey, I have a few thousand acres. I would love for this beautiful land to become a state par,'” Ferguson says. “And it was turned down.”
State parks have committed advocates, Ferguson says.
“State parks are pretty much bipartisan. Everyone loves them and lawmakers love them just as much as the rest of us,” Ferguson says. “And so there has been momentum swelling in the pas few sessions to finally get this done.”
If voters pass the constitutional amendment on the November ballot, dedicated park funding would begin to be available in 2021.
Written by Marina Marquez .