September 13, 2019
Weatherford Democrat | By Autumn Owens
Park Superintendent James Adams has started spreading the word about the construction expansion of the already named Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, and gave a presentation at the Native Plant Society’s Cross Timbers Chapter meeting Thursday night.
The state began purchasing land for the state park eight years ago and now with help from funding that was approved by the Texas Legislature, the 4,400-acre park is getting closer to a construction date.
“The timeline is very rough this early in the process, but we’re hoping to be able to start the roads as early as next August,” Adams said. “The funding methods for construction include $12.5 million that was appropriated by the legislature and then TxDOT covered the cost of building the roads and then the remaining $8 to $10 million is going to be funded through a partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. They are the non-profit partners of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”
State parks and historical sites have received about 40 percent of all money generated by a tax on the sale os sporting goods, but that is changing after legislation was filed to allow the entities to received the maximum tax revenue of up to 94 percent. Voters will have to approve the constitutional amendment, which will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, but lawmakers have already earmarked $322 million from the tax revenue for state parks regardless of the election.
“James Adams gave a very good overview of the park’s status,” Native Plant Society Publicity Elizabeth Afflerbach said. “[The] November election — this is a tangential issue. There is a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would lock in allocations of the state sales tax on sporting goods primarily for parks. [Adams] can’t advocate for a political position, but he can explain it. The tax was originally supposed to go for parks, but the [legislature] sometimes kept it in the general fund.”
The new legislation was filed by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brehnam, and state Rep. John P. Cyrier, R-Lockhart.
“We want to ensure that every Texan can take advantage of our state’s great outdoors, and the state has a responsibility to provide for our state parks and historic sites,” Kolkhorst said in a Texas Tribune article. “This is truth in taxation, and it gives these agencies the ability to plan.”
Adams said the parks plans have gained a lot of momentum.
“Some of planned amenities that we’re going to have here include some water and electric camp sites, equestrian camp sites with water and electric, lakeside day-use facilities, ridge top day-use facilities, a rentable pavilion and several miles of multi-use trails,” Adams said. “The interest is such in this park that it’s almost like I don’t have to look for places to go speak. People just send me emails and call me because they want to hear about it, they’re excited about the park and they want to know all they can, and how they can help. It’s really an awesome thing to have folks so interested and so enthused about the park.”
Adams said people have coined a phrase of the park being the “Metroplexes playground,” but said it will be more than that.
“I think it will be, but it will be more than that, this site is going to attract folks from all over the state and I think it will be an amazing thing for the local economy and an amazing thing for the people to get to experience,” Adams said. “I’m from this area, I grew up in Mineral Wells, and I’ve worked in several regions of the state and this, to me, has always been one of the most beautiful parts of the state. You can be driving along [Interstate] 20 from Weatherford and then all of the sudden it’s like you’re in the Hill Country and folks just don’t think about it. They think about west of Fort Worth and think Abilene or Odessa where it’s flatter. I’m excited to be able to show that to folks that may not be familiar with it.”
The TPWD Foundation has set up a webpage for direct donations to Palo Pinto Mountains State Park and can be found by visiting tpwf.org.