Monthly Archives

October 2019

Bastrop, Buescher state parks could get financial boost from Proposition 5 on November ballot

Buescher Biking 9288

October 16, 2019
Austin American-Statesman | By Brandon Mulder

Environmental groups are campaigning on behalf of state parks this month, working to get voters to approve a ballot measure in November that would unleash millions of dollars to the state park systems.

Bastrop and Buescher state parks, known as the Lost Pines State Park Complex, are in need of $30 million for repairs and renovations — $21 million for Bastrop State Park and $8.5 million for Buescher State Park — according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The burned down loblolly pine forest, with root systems no longer locking soils and sands in place, has allowed floodwaters to erode and alter topography, causing significant damage to roadways. The 2015 Memorial Day flood alone cost $1 million in damage in Bastrop State Park when floodwaters breached a dam, which now needs to be replaced, state park officials have said. Hurricane Harvey caused $6 million in damage to a Buescher State Park dam spillway. Other costs stem from routine building maintenance needs, including renovations to 14 historic cabins and $2.5 million in repairs and upgrades to water systems and campsite utilities.

In the offing is Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment that would dedicate sales tax revenue from sporting goods sales to state parks. Altogether, the state parks department has reported about $800 million in maintenance needs across the state park system’s nearly 100 parks and historic sites. The proposition was added to the November ballot thanks to a bill championed in the last legislative session by state Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, whose five-county district includes Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park and Lockhart State Park. If voters approve the measure, 94% of sales tax revenue collected from sporting goods — such as bicycles, fishing rods, hunting gear — would be dedicated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, specifically for park maintenance needs, and 6% would be dedicated to the Historical Commission.

From the creation of the tax in 1993 to 2017, the state collected $2.5 billion in sporting goods sales tax revenue. About 40% of that revenue went to parks while the rest filtered to other areas of the state budget.

In Bastrop County, the economic impact of both state parks is especially palpable. Economic developers in Smithville, for instance, attribute a lot of the small town’s tourists to the nearby state parks.

Beuscher State Park attracted 42,000 visitors in 2018 with 18,000 overnight stays.

“I can’t tell you how many people say their life goal is to go to every state park. People do that just like people want to visit every courthouse in Texas,” State Park Marketing and Branding Manager Thomas Wilhelm said during a recent meeting on Smithville economic development.

Advocacy groups such as Environment Texas and the Texas Coalition for State Parks are campaigning to make sure voters get the message.

Earlier this month, Environment Texas launched a statewide tour to build support for Proposition 5, through which advocates will tour seven cities and 15 state parks to promote the proposition.

“From camping under the stars at Big Bend Ranch to exploring the cypress swamps of Caddo Lake, our state parks make life better here in Texas,” Executive Director Luke Metzger said in an announcement. “They protect the clean water we depend on and provide a home for some of Texas’ most wondrous wildlife, like the black bear and the leatherback sea turtle. But chronic underfunding has placed a strain on an aging system with outdated infrastructure. Prop 5 is a historic opportunity to make sure our parks get the funds they need and deserve.”

“State parks like Bastrop State Park provide a significant public service by protecting and stewarding the state’s major natural and cultural resources,” Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission S. Reed Morian said, adding that the park system provided 6,081 jobs last year. “In November, Texas voters will have the opportunity to affirm their support for our parks and historical sites, and ensure that we continue to have a vibrant system that contributes to our economy, protects our natural environment and creates an important source of affordable recreation for Texas families.”

Early voting runs from Oct. 21 to Nov 1. Election day is Nov. 5.


Group Pushes Prop 5, Funneling Sporting Goods Sales Tax to Parks

Rivard Report

October 16, 2019
Rivard Report | By Jennifer Norris

Wrapping up a seven-city tour of the state, the environmental advocacy group Environment Texas made its final stop at Mission Concepción in San Antonio on Wednesday to promote the passage of Proposition 5, on the ballot for the Nov. 5 statewide election.

Proposition 5 calls for a constitutional amendment that will require the money from sporting goods sales tax in the state to be used only for Texas state parks and historic sites. That has been law since 1993 when the Legislature approved it, but in reality only about 40 percent of the $2.5 billion collected in sporting goods sales tax over the last 26 years has actually gone to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, according to Anna Farrell-Sherman, a representative with Environment Texas who spoke at the event.

Farrell-Sherman said the tax revenue has frequently been pillaged by the Legislature over the years to fill funding gaps, which has left Texas state parks with an increasingly long list of desperately needed repairs and projects totaling almost a billion dollars.

While camping at various state parks over the past week, Farrell-Sherman said she learned that every single park she stayed at had an urgent project or repair that was unfunded.

“I think one of the most striking was Monahans Sand Hills State Park,” she said.

“Their bathrooms are sliding down a hill and have been closed for the last two years because they don’t have the funds to repair those restrooms. That is not the sort of thing that we can have in a state park system that is vibrant and working for everybody.”

The measure appears to have been a rare bipartisan effort in the Legislature, with every single member of the Texas House signing on as a joint or co-author, and two-thirds of the Senate joining on as co-authors of the bill, which then passed unanimously, according to David Yeates, chief executive officer of the Texas Wildlife Association, who also spoke at the event.

Since no new taxes are being proposed, there appears to be no real opposition to the amendment, and the Legislature wrote the bill with what Yeates called a built-in pressure valve that allows a two-thirds vote in both chambers to reduce the park funding to 50 percent for one biennium at a time, but it would be required to return to 100 percent after that period.

Even that 50 percent funding would be higher than what it’s been since its inception, Yeates said.

“Philosophically there are those who are skeptical of taking away the flexibility of the Legislature,” Yeates said. “But, candidly, that flexibility of the Legislature’s been the problem. We’ve got $750 million of deferred maintenance in the Texas parks system and we’ve reached a point of crisis here with collapsing infrastructure, parks being closed. Being loved to death is the problem.”

Most of the state parks are anywhere between 40 and 90 years old, Yeates said, and he believes the State needs the built-in discipline of having money dedicated to the state parks that cannot be diverted away in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency.

If the measure passes, environmental and parks advocates will certainly rejoice, but just how much money they can count on every year is still uncertain at this point.

Typical yearly revenue from sporting goods sales tax can range from $250 million to $300 million, said Joseph Fitzsimmons, founder of the Texas Coalition for State Parks, who also spoke at the event.

“These things go hand in hand,” Fitzsimmons said. “If you go and buy a kayak, you’re going to expect to have a place to go put it in the water.”

Yeates estimated that if they could have at least 10 years of the sporting goods sales tax revenue pouring into the Texas state parks and historic sites’ coffers, they might begin to catch up on the backlog of projects.

The law allocates 94 percent of the sporting good sales tax revenue for state parks and 6 percent for historic sites. Local parks and historic sites can also apply for grants to access the funds, which Phil Hardberger Park has done a couple of times, according to Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas.

Early voting for the Nov. 5 election begins Oct. 21.


Prop 5: Sporting goods sales tax for parks

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October 16, 2019
KTSA | By Elizabeth Ruiz

One of the proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution would make sure that all revenue from the sporting goods sales tax go to the state parks and wildlife department and historic commission.

Luke Metzger with Environment Texas says that was the intention when the tax was created in 1993, but most of the money has gone elsewhere.

“The Legislature kind of raids those funds and uses them for other purposes,” Metzger told KTSA News.

He says from 1993 to 2017, the state collected nearly $2.5 billion in revenues from the sporting goods sales tax, but only 40 percent was appropriated for parks.

“Some of our state parks have been hit by natural disasters, whether it’s the wildfires in Bastrop or Hurricane Harvey, so they’re in need of funds,” said Metzger.

The money is used for improvements and renovations, as well as building new parks.

“Our state is growing by leaps and bounds and there’s increasing demand for state parks,” he said.

Environment Texas stopped at Mission County Park Wednesday as part of a statewide tour promoting Proposition 5, one of 10 proposed state constitutional amendments on the November 5 ballot. Early voting begins Monday, October 21, and continues through November 1.


Editorial: Yes on Prop 5: Funding state parks enriches us all

Monahans 106

October 15, 2019
Austin American-Statesman | By American-Statesman Editorial Board

Over the past quarter-century, Texas lawmakers have siphoned away nearly $1.5 billion that should have gone to state parks and historical sites, and instead used those dollars to plug holes in the state budget.

Proposition 5 on the Nov. 5 ballot would put an end to that sneaky and short-sighted practice. We urge voters to support Prop 5, which would ensure state parks and historical sites receive all of the sales tax revenue generated by the sale of sporting goods, such as bicycles, fishing gear and golf equipment.

In theory, that revenue has been dedicated to state parks and historical sites since 1993, but lawmakers often dipped into that pot for other budget priorities. Between 1993 and 2017, only 47% of the nearly $2.8 billion collected by the tax was appropriated to state parks.

We’re seeing the cost of those decisions: About 300 park restrooms are so dilapidated they need to be removed or replaced. About 220 camping areas in state parks are in serious disrepair, with flood-ravaged terrain, broken picnic tables or unusable fire pits. Texas parks face a staggering $800 million in overdue maintenance projects.

These conditions rob Texans and tourists alike of the opportunity to enjoy our state’s natural treasures — at a time when a record 10 million visitors a year are showing up at state parks.

Guaranteeing a reliable source of revenue — an estimated $175 million in 2022 — would enable park operators to plan for those maintenance projects. And studies show the economic benefits accrue to the community: Park upgrades draw more visitors, who spend money at nearby restaurants, gas stations and other businesses.

This year, as legislators overwhelmingly supported putting Prop 5 before voters, they decided to put all of the sporting goods sales tax toward parks and historic sites in the 2020-21 budget. It was a worthy down payment on the investment Texas parks and their visitors deserve. Voters should make that commitment permanent by supporting Proposition 5.


Do you know what Proposition 5 is? Texas voters to decide on state parks funding in November

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October 15, 2019
KVIA | By Michael Gordon

A seven-city tour to secure the future of funding for state and local parks is underway and pulled into the Franklin Mountains on Monday.

Anna Farrell-Sherman is part of a group that is currently hiking their way through 13 parks to promote Proposition 5.

Proposition 5 is a constitutional amendment to dedicate funds from the sporting goods sales tax to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“There are places at state parks where their bathrooms and campgrounds have been closed for years because they don’t have enough money,” said Farrell-Sherman.

At each stop, the group is working to raise awareness about Prop. 5 before voters hit the polls on Nov. 5.

“We are already paying this tax no matter what,” said Farrell-Sherman. “Prop. 5 guarantees the money we pay goes to where it is supposed to.”

As far as the Borderland is concerned, Prop 5 would mean more money to preserve the Franklin Mountains.

Additionally, the Prop 5 ballot measure would prohibit the state legislature from decreasing funding for parks and historical agencies by more than 50%.


Prop. 5 and the sales tax on sporting goods


October 15, 2019
KAUZ | Katelyn Fox

On November 5, Texans will be voting on 10 new Constitutional Amendments.

Issues include: public school funding, tax exemptions for disaster areas and the retirement of police dogs and horses.

Proposition 5 (SJR 24) would require the Legislature to allocate the money raised from state sales taxes on sporting goods ( for example: hunting, fishing and outdoor equipment ) to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department ( TPWD ) and the Texas Historical Commission ( THC ).

Revenue from these taxes would be used to improve and manage state and local parks and historic sites and to purchase new sites.

Proposition 5 closes a loophole in the current law that prevents 100% of the revenue raised by these sales taxes from being given to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission, which currently allows some of the money to be used to help balance the state budget.

The League of Women Voters of Texas ( LWVTX ) provides fair and unbiased information through researching each Amendment to help voters understand the issues.

“You decide which of the 10 proposed amendments will become part of the Texas Constitution,” said Texas League President Grace Chimene. “The Texas Constitution is among the longest in the country. Since it was adopted in 1876, 498 amendments have been approved by Texas voters.”

The League’s Voters Guide is available online on the LWVTX website and Texas voters can review their ballot, make choices and print out their choices by clicking here.

The printed Voters Guide can be found at most Texas public libraries.

Texas voters may take the printed Voters Guide, their online printed list or their own notes on paper into the polling booth with them but may not use their phone in the polling place.


State park supporters visit Franklin Mountains State Park to encourage Texans to vote for proposition 5

Franklin Mountains

October 14, 2019
KTSM | By Tatiana Favela

The group “Environment Texas” visits 13 different state parks in 7 cities across Texas including El Paso.

An environmental advocacy group is encouraging Texas to consider voting “yes” on proposition 5, a state constitutional amendment that would dedicate sales taxes on sporting goods for state parks.

The group “Environment Texas” is visiting 13 different state parks in 7 cities across Texas including El Paso.

“People like myself, my family, when we come to visit the state parks… they’re well maintained and they’re well kept up so we can enjoy it much better,” El Pasoan Eric Hatch said.

For those who enjoy the outdoors like Hatch, a clean state park makes it easier to experience.

On Monday, Hatch listened to state park supporters with Environment Texas spread the word about proposition 5.

“State parks are something that many people treasure. Whether it’s for what they do to preserve Texas’ beautiful diverse ecosystems and landscapes or whether it’s for the family adventures that the state parks allow them to go on,” Emma Pabst, a Fellow with Environment Texas said.

The proposition is a constitutional amendment that would guarantee sales taxes on sporting goods to be dedicated only in funding state and local parks in Texas, as well as historic sites.

That includes the Franklin Mountains State Park here in the sun city.

Environment Texas said state parks already have funding from sales tax on sporting goods however, between 1933 to 2017 only 40% of funds were appropriated for parks.”

The funds would go towards improving the state parks with routine maintenance.

“Over time facilities like bathrooms, visitor centers, road ways, or camping sites… those things wear down. You need to know how much money is coming in each year in order to budget and repair them,” Pabst explained.

Supporters of the proposition also said it could help relieve the parks in case of a natural disaster.

“Any of those sorts of things, parks need money in order to bounce back and make repairs after those events,” Pabst shared, “Prop 5 will make sure they have the money they need to put a little bit into savings each time they get funding so that way they can be prepared for those natural disasters and keep our parks running so people can keep visiting.”

It could also help locals like Hatch have more time savoring the outdoors.

“Also for Texans who go to visit their state parks in their area, they can come out and enjoy it and ensure that it’s maintained not only for them but for their children and generations to come,” Hatch said.

This is the first time proposition 5 will go up for a vote.

Voters can expect to see it on the November 5th ballot.

One week from today Texans Will begin early voting in November 5 constitutional amendment election

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October 14, 2019
The Gilmer Mirror

WHAT: For Texans, early voting in the upcoming constitutional amendment election this fall begins on Monday, October 21, 2019. Those interested in voting on the 10 items on the ballot in the November 5, 2019 election can find out where they can cast their ballots as well as information on Proposition 5 by visiting the links on the Texas Coalition for State Parks’ elections page at:

WHO: All Eligible Texans

WHEN: Monday, October 21, 2019 – Early voting beings!

WHERE: For more information, visit:

WHY PROP 5: Prop. 5 is an amendment that will ensure there will be funding to protect Texas water quality, natural areas, beaches, and wildlife, so that our children and grandchildren and future generations can enjoy them the same way we do. Prop. 5 is a constitutional dedication of revenue from the existing sales tax, so those dollars can only be used by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission on public parks and historic sites. Importantly, Prop. 5 requires no new taxes or fees.

About the Texas Coalition for State Parks:

The Texas Coalition for State Parks, was launched by a group of former Texas Parks & Wildlife Commissioners and park advocates with the sole purpose of advocating for a constitutional dedication of the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to state parks funding. The Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC has formed to engage voters ahead of the November 5, 2019 election and encourage them to support Proposition 5. More information can be found at


Proposition 5 to help state parks and historical sites

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The Facts (Brazoria County) | By Marqus Williams

Revenue intended to go toward supporting Texas parks, wildlife and historical agencies hasn’t been allocated appropriately, a problem voters can change under Proposition 5 on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Proposition 5 requires all revenue coming from the state sales tax on sporting goods to go directly toward the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission.

“The state parks and historic sites were intended to be funded by sporting goods, but unfortunately, not all the revenue has gone to that,” former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Joseph Fitzsimons said. “This constitutional amendment is the only way to guarantee that revenue goes directly to that.”

For more than two decades, revenue from that specific tax has been split between its intended purpose and the general fund, and the legislature has used it for other purposes.

“In 1993, the legislature passed the Sporting Goods Sales Tax that would provide a consistent stream of revenue towards the parks and historical agencies. The only problem was 60 percent of that went toward the general revenue,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation media spokeswoman Jenifer Sarver said.

In its first 25 years, the sporting goods sales tax generated $2.5 billion worth of revenue from sporting goods, but only 40 percent of went back to the state parks and historical agencies, according to the Texas Coalition of State Parks. That has left the two state agencies short of the money it needs for maintenance and improvements to their sites, Sarver said.

“There is $800 million worth of listed projects in deferred maintenance projects that have been put on hold because the departments don’t have the money to fund it,” Sarver said.

The original idea for the sporting goods tax is a smart one, she said.

“It’s a great way for revenue because money is coming from people who actually use the parks and it allows the state to update and modernize the parks and get the facilities up to standard,” Sarver said.

The Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC has generated more than $640,000 in donations to support the campaign and bring change for the natural areas of Texas.

“The contributions were spent on educating people and spreading awareness for the voting by any way we could,” Sarver said.
Legislation to put the proposed constitutional amendment passed both houses overwhelmingly, with only one opposing vote in each chamber.

Early voting will be Oct. 21 to Nov. 1. Election Day will be Nov. 5.


Vote ‘Yes’ on Proposition 5 to benefit our state parks

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October 12, 2019
The Eagle | By Steve Fletcher

In Texas, the state legislature is allowed to appropriate revenue from the sales tax (6.25%) on sporting goods to the state Parks and Wildlife Department and the state Historical Commission. According to the Texas Senate Research Center, “the actual appropriation is often much less than the [estimated revenue].”

A vote of “Yes” on proposition 5 this coming November would add language to the Texas Constitution dedicating revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods to the state Parks and Wildlife Department and the state Historical Commission. Whereas the current law allows the Legislature to allocate the revenue for other uses, Proposition 5 would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to reduce the amount for the parks, wildlife, and historical agencies. Furthermore, the ballot measure would prohibit the Legislature from decreasing the amount for the parks, wildlife, and historical agencies by more than 50 percent.

This is not a new tax or a tax increase. It is honoring the sentiment of the bill’s original authors: supporting funding of our great state’s parks and the rich resources they afford. Since 1993, less than 40% of the sporting goods tax has made its way back to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — the rest usurped into the “general fund.”

As a proportion of total land, Texas has the lowest availability of nature-based recreation opportunities in the country. With our population growth, these opportunities are becoming increasingly important but increasingly scarce. Their availability has implications for the well-being of all; our children, the planet and the seemingly insignificant (but vitally important) critters that keep our world functioning.

For the good of all, please vote this November and vote “yes” on proposition 5.


© 2019 Texas Coalition for State Parks. Political Ad by Texas Coalition for State Parks PAC.