AUSTIN –A new analysis by Texas economist Dr. Ray Perryman finds that local parks in Texas contribute more than $5.5 billion to Texas’ economy and create more than 38,000 jobs. A coalition of parks directors and business and environmental leaders from across the state used the report’s conclusions to call on the Legislature to increase funding for parks by passing HB6 and SB252.
“Local parks aren’t just pretty places to walk the dog but are a major economic engine for Texas,” said Dr. Ray Perryman. “From the thousands of tourists who attend festivals in our parks to the businesses who locate to Texas because of quality of life measures like green space, our parks are big business for this state.”
The report, Sunshine, Soccer and Success, was commissioned by the Texas Parks and Recreation Foundation and analyzed expenditures for parks operations and maintenance, capital outlays for improvements and acquisitions of parkland and recreational facilities, and stimulus from tourism directly linked to local parks. In addition to the benefits to the statewide economy, the report found that local parks generate more than $170 million per year in revenue to the state government. In contrast, the Legislature only appropriated $5 million per year in 2005 and 2006 back to local parks.
“With Texas’ population booming and becoming more urban, we are going to need a lot more soccer fields, recreation centers, and green space to meet public demand,” said Michael Massey, Legislative Director of the Texas Recreation and Parks Society. “The good news is the state’s local parks grant program has been highly effective at leveraging multiple pots of money to build and maintain local parks. Unfortunately, the program’s budget has been dramatically cut, putting many projects indefinitely on hold.”
Local and state parks are partially funded through sales taxes on sporting goods. While the Comptroller estimated that the taxes bring in more than $100 million per year, the Legislature has capped the fund only appropriated a total of $20.5 million per year. HB 6 (Hilderbran) and SB 252 (Estes) would eliminate the cap on the funds and increase funding for parks by more than $90 million per year, including an additional $20 million for local parks.
"I am very excited to be the primary author and legislative leader on this issue," Rep. Hilderbran said. "This is an important issue to the State of Texas. I will continue to work hard to restore our Texas parks' system and move it forward until it becomes the beacon state system in the nation."
"I believe we must properly maintain our parks to preserve our Texas landscapes, wild river basins, rolling hill country, and windswept prairies," said Sen. Estes. "These parks preserve our Texas heritage and must be carefully guarded for not only the enjoyment of our generation, but for the generations to follow."
The group noted that parks do much to promote quality of life in our cities and towns. The ability to be outdoors in a park setting is important to psychological health. It also helps improve the health and wellbeing of individuals through providing a space for physical activity, including for children. Parks also provide environmental benefits such as contributing to clean air and water, the preservation of natural areas and controlling stormwater run-off.
“With more than $600 million in bonds for parks and recreation approved by Texas voters last November, our local communities are clearly doing their part for parks,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “But they can’t do it alone. Well-timed grants from the state can make or break a park deal and we need the Legislature to step up and do their part”.