Texans for State Parks is working with a diverse coalition of Texans from hunting and fishing groups, to environmentalists and conservation organizations, encouraging lawmakers to ensure consistent funding for our State Parks moving forward.
State and local parks are vital to our state’s economy and to preserving our Texas heritage, culture and way of life. Texas’ 95 state parks include over 635,000-acres that were largely developed during the Civilian Conservation Corps (1930’s-1940’s) and the Connolly bond (1980’s) eras, when Texas was more rural and less populous. Today, Texas has 27 million people who increasingly gravitate to our parks seeking a respite from the city and a way to connect with the outdoors. State Park visitation is nearing 10 million visitors annually, with park revenues experiencing a nearly 40% increase in the last five years. Based on a 2018 Economic Impact study, the parks generated more than $891 million in sales, had a $240 million impact on income for Texas residents, and supported an estimated 6,081 jobs throughout the state.
The Parks are overflowing and stretched to the limit as Texans seek out outdoor opportunities in a state that is primarily privately owned with limited public access. Visitors to State Parks like Garner and Enchanted Rock (pictured) have experienced lines backed up for hours to get into the parks, for example.
The challenges facing the State Park are myriad: deteriorating and outdated infrastructure, a lack of consistent and sufficient funding, harsh environmental conditions, extreme weather events such as floods and fires, and a diverse and growing population, are among them. Hurricane Harvey alone did $50 million in destruction to our State Parks. So, while our parks are aging, their popularity is increasing creating an extra strain on an already stretched system.
SPORTING GOODS SALES TAX
In 1993, the Texas Legislature wisely moved to create a consistent funding stream for the parks, designating a portion of the sales taxes collected from the sale of sporting goods, known as the Sporting Goods Sales Tax (SGST). Unfortunately, the funds have not consistently found their way to the parks. In fact, from 1993 to 2017, the State has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the SGST, yet only 40 percent has been appropriated for parks. Funds were diverted for other purposes unrelated to the parks and to balance the state budget. In both the 84th and 85th Legislative Sessions, with the active support of a diverse coalition of Texans from hunting and fishing groups, to environmentalists and conservation organizations, there have been legislative fixes to address this issue. Yet the fixes ended up being temporary and the relief has been short-lived. It is time for a sustainable solution.