TCEA's Program Vice President arranged for Walt Dabney, Director of Texas State Parks, to make a "State of the State Parks" address in Fort Worth on September 14 at the Botanic Garden Center Auditorium If you have been keeping up with the weekly reporting you will have noted that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has done a very good job of bringing the financial woes of our Texas State Parks to the attention of our community. In fact, there has been enough coverage and response around the state that this issue is getting the attention of the gubernatorial candidates, too. Hearing the presentation of the State Parks clarified the varied information we have all been receiving. The following is a rough summary of the meeting.
For your address book. State Parks is: www.tpwd.state.tx. State Parks Director, Walt Dabney is: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the State Parks web site you will find the State Parks Advisory Committees Report to the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission in the upper right corner of the home page. There is much to read, here.
The meeting was very informative. However, like all meetings there was considerable information shared with good responses to great questions that were asked. Again, there always seem to be more questions that beg an answer. Director Dabney was very candid.
Director Dabney gave a Power Point presentation that described the parks and then showed graphically how they have declined. Quite simply, the parks are in steep decline because their funding has lessened with each budget cycle in Texas for many legislative sessions. He explained how it happened. The state budget allocation reductions over the past 10 to 15 years were the direct cause of the parks problems today. Budget requests have been denied or cut sharply in each budget cycle ever worsening the parks funding and its ability for meeting their basic needs, let alone improvements.
The bottom line is that there appears to have been very little protesting from the general public over these years while the parks fell into greater and greater decline. Now, the ball figuratively, is in the hands of Texas residents. It is up to all of us to strongly express our concerns about the plight of the state parks and insist that this problem must be improved. To date, the state legislature responds to what they hear from the voters and they, evidently, havent heard much. It is incumbent on each of us to remedy that deficit. Our respective state representatives and state senators must hear our concerns about the condition of the State Parks starting now and into the future.
The TPWD has prepared a proposed budget request that would be more or less repeated over the next 10 years. They are asking for $85 million for the years 07-08. They need in excess of $850 million for the overall task but this appropriation request will enable the State Park system to begin replacing staff lost and to start repairing the long time decaying infrastructure of the parks.
There are no guarantees that citizens expressing their deep concerns to their state representative and their state senators about their parks will result in budget request authorizations. If we dont do it, the requests will most likely not be considered and the current practice to eliminate and/or shut down parks will continue. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
During the Q and A session, a question was raised about the special license funds handling. There are multiple plates and each plate is for a different area of the State Parks. The Bluebonnet plates fees go directly to the State Parks. The Horned Toad plate earnings go to wildlife diversity, important but the State Parks sees none of that. Of the 30 dollar fee that is charged over and above the license fee 8 dollars goes to TxDOT for administration and the remaining 22 dollars goes to the appropriate division of the State Parks. It was not clear how the money is actually dispersed to the parks and a clarification question along this line was not asked. Presumably, dispersal is by action of the legislature.
Look up the report to the TP&W Commissioners and give it a read.