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Facing Budget Crunch, Texas Parks and Wildlife Pleads For Help

Photo by Mathew High
About half of the operating costs are generated by entrance fees, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking the public to visit state parks like this one, Garner Park, to help eliminate a $4.6 million deficit.

Did you like to go camping in triple digit heat? Would it be more appealing if campfires were banned? Apparently most people don't like to sweat in the dark, even if it's in a beautiful natural surrounding,  and that's helped blow a $4.6 million hole in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) budget.

Now that the weather is more mild and burn bans are being lifted across Texas, TPWD is pleading for people to visit state parks and to make donations.  The agency is holding eleven news conferences across the state today, reminding people that close to half of state park revenue -- about $69 million of the operating budget -- comes from park entrance fees.

“A ‘triple whammy’ of record heat and drought, devastating wildfires and a corresponding decline in visitation and revenue has created a critical need for Texas State Parks,” announced TPWD exective director Carter Smith in a news release. “We are reaching out for help.”

The department already faced major state funding cuts this past year. According to the Texas Tribune, everything from park maintenance and hunter education got cut anywhere from 21 to 25 percent. Now TPWD fears that it may have to close a number of parks next year if the money is not raised in time.

So what's to be done? TPWD proposes the following solutions:

  • Go to to make a tax-deductible, year-end donation.
  • Starting January 1, make a donation when you renew your motor vehicle registration.
  • And, most importantly, because visitor fees pay for about half of park system operating costs, visit state parks.

According to Brent Leisure, TPWD state parks director, now may be the ideal time to visit a state park.
“Cooler weather makes fall and winter a fine time to visit state parks, which are great places for holiday outings and gatherings,” said Leisure. “Also, recent rains are allowing many of our parks to lift burn bans. That’s making campfires possible once again, an important tradition for many park visitors.”

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