Texas currently ranks 35th in the nation for state parks acreage per person, causing concern among parks supporters that, without significant investment, the state’s rapidly growing population will soon outgrow the available parkland.
In response, the Legislature has cleared the way to establish a $1 billion trust fund aimed at acquiring private land to develop into parks, according to a report by the Austin Americn-Statesman.
The Centennial Parks Conservation Fund, to be decided by the state’s 17 million registered voters in November, will authorize the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to create additional trails, fishing holes, and campsites throughout the state.
This week, House members voted to authorize the election, passing Senate Joint Resolution 74 and Senate Bill 1648, enabling the proposal’s legislation. The Senate had previously passed both measures in April.
A bipartisan Senate coalition, including Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Democratic co-authors Sens. César Blanco of El Paso, Sarah Eckhardt of Austin, and José Menéndez of San Antonio, crafted the proposal. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, also joined as a co-author.
Executive director of Environment Texas, Luke Metzger, expressed enthusiasm for the proposal, stating, “This is an opportunity for a new golden age of park acquisition for the state of Texas, and we think that would be a perfect birthday present for the park’s centennial.”
The 1980s marked a golden age of exceptional growth in the state parks system, with over 30 parks and natural areas opening during this time, stimulated by a $75 million bond approved by the Legislature in 1967. However, this funding dwindled in the late 1990s, and the parks system has since experienced little growth.
The proposed fund arrives as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department celebrates its 100th anniversary. “We are grateful that our legislature and state leadership recognize the value of state parks and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities for the fast-growing population of Texans,” said executive director David Yoskowitz.
The Outdoor Recreation Industry in Texas, a major player in the state’s economy, benefits from increased parkland and recreational opportunities. Expanded parklands will attract more visitors, generating revenue for local businesses and the state’s economy.
Moreover, improved park facilities and increased recreational opportunities contribute to the overall well-being of Texas residents.
According to Texas 2036, a think tank focusing on preparing the state for future growth, nearly three-fourths of respondents in a recent survey supported investing $1 billion for parkland acquisition.
The nonprofit predicts that by Texas’ 200th birthday in 2036, the state will have added 8 million residents, equating to about one-fourth of the current population. These new Texans, along with existing residents, will seek outdoor recreation and enjoyment in state parks, further highlighting the importance of expanded parklands in the state’s future.