Environment Texas today joined the Texas Coalition for State Parks, a group of conservation organizations and former commissioners of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, whose sole purpose is to advocate in the coming legislative session for a constitutional dedication of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to State Parks funding.
Camping, fishing, hiking and nature viewing: our local and state parks protect some of the most beautiful places in the state and give us places to teach our kids about the great outdoors. Unfortunately, our parks have been on a rollercoaster over the years of inconsistent funding. This despite increased visitation putting strain on the parks, facilities damaged by Hurricane Harvey, a backlog of maintenance needs and need to build campgrounds and trails in new parks, like at the still-to-be-opened Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.
While demand for our parks is up, and millions of new Texans move here each year, we need to have a high-functioning Park System capable of meeting demand and preserving our culture and way of life for future generations. The Texas Coalition for State Parks believes the time for limping from session to session hat in hand is over. We want to work with our lawmakers to ensure consistency for our State Parks moving forward.
Sales taxes on sporting goods like bicycles, fishing tackles, and golf equipment are supposed to be directed to our parks, but the Legislature has diverted the funds for other purposes. Between 1993 to 2017, the state has collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the sporting goods sales tax, yet only 40% has been appropriated for parks. In that same period, the backlog of deferred maintenance and repair for our parks has grown to $800 million. We can defer no longer.
Environment Texas has a long history advocating for our state and local parks. In 2007, we produced a video with actor Ethan Hawke to advocate for our parks and launched the "State Parks Express," an RV which drove around the state visiting legislative offices to make the case for increased funding. In 2011 we helped stop a plan to close 20 state parks to save money and in 2013 we helped restore funding for the local parks grants program (see pictures of some of our work below).
We're excited to work with the Texas Coalition for State Parks in 2019 to secure funding for parks - once and for all.