Texans Asked to Visit State Parks as Business Partners Line up to Help with Budget Gap
AUSTIN – Some $1.4 million in donations have been raised since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department launched a statewide appeal to help close a $4.6 million budget gap brought on by devastating wildfires, record drought and a corresponding drop in visitation.
“Visit your state parks—it’s a simple and enjoyable way to help,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, noting that visitor fees pay for about half the cost to operate the state park system. “If enough people go enjoy their state parks, we‘re hopeful we can reverse the losses we experienced in the first six months of our fiscal year. The good news is that while levels of many lakes are still down and the drought is by no means over, recent rains in much of Texas have created a green spring prime time for getting outdoors.”
Park visitation is picking up after lagging considerably last year due to record drought across the state and wildfires at three popular state parks. Compared with 2011, revenue from park visitors was down about 9 percent for the year in January. Visitation has increased some over the past few months but is still about 4 percent lower than last year.
Since early December, donations big and small have come in from people and organizations across the state. These include donations made online and by mail directly to TPWD, gifts through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and contributions from a new program allowing Texans to donate to state parks when registering motor vehicles. People can also donate $5 when renewing boat registrations.
Alongside supportive Texans, foundations, nonprofit organizations and private businesses are now coming to the aid of the state park system. Whole Earth Provision Company, La Quinta Inns & Suites, Toyota dealers in Houston and Dallas and others are readying plans for promotions and other efforts this spring and summer to help raise donations for state parks. Already REI has raised more than $12,000 in its Texas stores and Crestview RV and Geico teamed up to donate an RV vehicle to help encourage park visitation. In addition, local park friends groups and associations, such as the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association, are mounting their own fundraising efforts.
To learn about state parks near you and the various activities and events they offer, or to make online overnight reservations, visit http://www.texasstateparks.org . You can also call 1-800-792-1112, option 3, between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday to make an overnight reservation.
Resources for news media, including photos of drought and wildfires, downloadable video, and radio news soundbites, are in a Park Awareness News Roundup online.
- TPWD News Roundup:http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/state_parks_appeal_for_help/
- Texas State Park Donations: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/helpparks