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Texas House Approves Bills To Spend $1 Billion Dollars To Purchase More State Park Land

May 16, 2023- The Texas House has given preliminary approval to two Bills Monday, Senate Bill 1648 and Senate Joint Resolution 74, With voter approval would create a Centennial Parks Conservation Fund to invest up to $1 billion to buy more land for the state parks system.

The Bill and Resolution, by Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, has already received an OK from the Senate and needs a final vote in the House before heading to the governor’s desk for final approval. The governor has already called for a increase in the budget of state parks, advocates of the Bill and resolution are optimistic of its approval.

If the governor does approve them, the issue will go before voters as a constitutional amendment in November, and the state could begin spending the money as early as Jan. 1.

Stated in a report by Environment Texas last year, Texas is ranked 35th in the nation for state park acreage per capita, with about 636,000 acres of parkland for a population of over 29 million as of 2019. The report also suggested that Texas needs to add 1.4 million acres of state parks by 2030 to meet its needs for its residents.

Since the COVID pandemic state parks number of visitors have increased drastically seeing a 37% increase from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021.

Advocates and park aficionados have gathered at the Capitol several times during the legislative session to express the need for more park land. They shared stories of their most memorable park experiences of fishing, hiking and camping. They also told lawmakers that to enjoy state parks, which receive close to 10 million visitors each year, sometimes they have to get on waiting lists several months in advance and campsites are limited.

As lawmakers make big investments in Texas parks, Robert Kent, Texas state director for The Trust For Public Land, said he hopes they will find a way not only to buy land for new parks but to preserve existing ones, too.

He pointed to another set of bills, House Bill 3165 and House Joint Resolution 138 by Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, that might do just that. The bill would create a conservation fund that would provide grants to preserve water resources as well as local and state parks. The resolution would put the fund on the November ballot for voter approval.

The House approved the Bill and the Resolution earlier this month. However the Senate has yet to vote on the items.


Author: Ethan Klein

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