Well, folks, we all know that the Texas State legislature cut a lot of budgets this year in an unsuccessful attempt to balance the budget (although most of the hoopla out of the legislature made it sound like they balanced the budget--that was all smoke and mirrors.) One of the budgets cut tremendously was the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
State parks are in serious financial trouble. There are some in the state who would like nothing better than to sell off parkland to private persons and entities to raise money for state expenditures. Although the parks are public land held in trust for the public, the legislature doesn't consider them a priority. Therefore, private citizens must come to the rescue. Texas Parks and Wildlife has issued a plea to raise $4.6 million through public donations to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. I made a small donation today.
If you have the resources, please consider a contribution to this foundation or to your local Friends group. Many parks have a 501(c)(3) Friends group to raise money for park improvements and to provide volunteer labor for projects the park doesn't have the manpower to do. Our local Lake Arrowhead State Park started a Friends group this past year. It is too new to be listed on the TPWD site yet, but should be soon as the Memorandum was recently signed. The group meets the first Thursday of each month at 7PM. If you don't have a lot of spare money, consider donating time.
Other ways to help are to visit the park and pay the entry fee ($3 per person at Lake Arrowhead) or purchase an annual park pass for admission to all of the state parks for a year.
Other organizations are getting involved to help increase attendance at the parks. For example, the Texas Ornithological Society is sponsoring a series of bird walks in state parks over the next several months to draw attention to the birdwatching opportunities and to bring in additional visitors. I will be leading monthly bird walks at Lake Arrowhead State Park beginning in March. I'll post reminders in my sister blog, A Charm of Finches.
If we want parks to be here for future generations, we are going to have to make a personal commitment to do what we can to support the parks we have.