In the past five years, Hurricane Ike nearly wiped two popular Texas beachfront parks from the map in Galveston and Sabine Pass, while record-setting wildfires burned thousands more acres of state parkland.
According to a report by the San Antonio Express-News, the drought has killed countless trees and continues to punish West Texas parks such as San Angelo, which has banned all recreation on its nearly bone-dry lake. And then there are the repairs needed for aging historic park sites such as the leaky Battleship Texas.
With such a troubling backdrop, park supporters have banded together for their newest battle: budget cuts that could force the closure of as many as nine state parks. The thought of shutting down parks in a state that prides itself on its diverse and majestic outdoors is upsetting to many.
“We need to turn up the volume and let people know that our state parks are threatened,” said Ian Davis, director of the Keep Texas Parks Open campaign. “We’re in a time of budget surplus, and it seems backwards to be closing parks.”
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs has predicted a 12.4% or $11.2 billion increase in general revenue funds for the 2014-15 biennium.
But the initial proposed park budget being considered by the Texas House and Senate now is $4.1 million short of the minimum to keep the state’s 91 parks open, park officials say. The Legislative Budget Board, which develops budget and policy recommendations for the Legislature, last week estimated such a cut could close as many as nine parks but did not identify any of them.
Despite the dire outlook, Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director Carter Smith remains optimistic: “This is only a beginning point of a long budget process that will take place over the next couple of months.”
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