Local Parks Grants at Risk at TX Legislature

Yesterday, the House Appropriations committee made their initial recommendations on funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) - see page 16-20 here. The good news is the committee recommended appropriating the additional $6.7 million necessary to avoid parks closures, as well as some other priorities for TPWD. However, the $15.5 million requested for the local parks grant program was punted to Article XI – a “wishlist” of projects which generally don’t end up getting funded. This afternoon, starting at 3 PM, the Senate Finance subcommittee on natural resources will again consider TPWD funding request. After the subcommittee recommended full funding of TPWD’s request two weeks ago, Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams last week directed all his subcommittees to make cuts to their requests. Local parks maybe on the chopping block. Parks advocates are working to make sure the local grants program is restored.

We urge you to please editorialize on this issue and urge the Legislature to provide $15.5 million for the local parks grant program.

 The Issue:

In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature suspended funding for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Park Grant Programs created

in Chapter 24 Parks and Wildlife Code, that provide matching funds assistance to Texas’ local governments for local

park and recreation acquisition and facility development and outdoor outreach programs. These grants have been

made in the past from dedicated revenues from State sporting goods sales taxes.

 Background:

Since 1979 Texas Parks and Wildlife Local Park Grant Programs have invested more than $390.2 million

(matching funds) grant dollars in 1,630 projects throughout the state to provide close-to-home parks, recreation and

conservation experiences for Texans. This investment has provided for the acquisition and development of local

park and recreation sites, and provided resources to supplement local park and conservation programs that introduce

children and families to the outdoors.

·      Matching grants for local park and recreation facilities and acquiring new parks

·      Development of active recreation like organized sports facilities, trails, swimming pools, playgrounds and group outdoor event facilities

·      Development of passive and natural outdoor facilities

·      Program grants to introduce children and families to outdoor recreation and conservation experiences

·      Separate programs for urban and smaller Texas communities 

Why This Is Important: 

Local Parks are Essential to Families.

Parks are places where families can connect and interact and share important experiences. These are places

that promote a sense of community, and enhance cultural values. A park can be a place where neighbors

can meet and engage in activities that can make those neighborhoods safer.

Local Parks are Essential for Healthy Living.

Parks offer resources for health and exercise that can be found in few other places, and are often more

affordable alternatives to promote healthy living and reduce soaring health care costs. 

Local Parks are Essential for the Environment.

From protecting water resources to increasing air quality; local parks and green spaces can positively

influence a community on several environmental levels.

Local Parks are Essential for Economic Prosperity.

Parks are increasingly important to attracting certain types of desirable corporate locations, particularly

those involving high numbers of knowledge workers. Local Parks increase local tax revenue due to

tourism and special events, enhance property values and improve the quality of life for citizens in their

communities.

What We Want the 83rd Texas Legislature To Do:

·      Fully restore funding ($15.5 million per year) to the Local Parks Grant Programs in Article VI, Natural Resources, Texas Parks and Wildlife budget (Texas Recreation and Parks Account No. 467 & Large County and Municipality Recreation and Parks Account No. 5007), or, as a minimum, restore the program to the level requested in the Texas Parks and Wildlife legislative appropriation request.

·      Support legislation that creates a Constitutional dedication of sporting goods sales tax revenue for use in State and Local Parks.

·      Ensure that all candidate grant projects should be subject to the established competitive grant process (no special interest riders).